The Americas

Entries from the Theosophical Glossary

Artufas. A generic name in South America and the islands for temples of nagalism or serpent worship.

Incas (Peruvian) The name given to the creative gods in the Peruvian theogony, and later to the rulers of the country. “The Incas, seven in number have repeopled the earth after the Deluge”, Coste makes them say (I. iv., p.19). They belonged at the beginning of the fifth Root-race to a dynasty of divine kings, such as those of Egypt, India and Chaldea.

Kauravya (Sk.) The King of the Nagas (Serpents) in Patala, exoterically a hall. But esoterically it means something very different. There is a tribe of the Nagas in Upper India; Nagal is the name in Mexico of the chief medicine men to this day, and was that of the chief adepts in the twilight of history; and finally Patal means the Antipodes and is a name of America. Hence the story that Arjuna travelled to Patala, and married Ulupi, the daughter of the King Kauravya, may be as historical as many others regarded first as fabled and then found out to be true.

Nagal. The title of the chief Sorcerer or “medicine man” of some tribes of Mexican Indians. These keep always a daimon or god, in the shape of a serpent—and sometimes some other sacred animal—who is said to inspire them.

Pachacamac (Peruv.) The name given by the Peruvians to the Creator of the Universe, represented as a host of creators. On his altar only the first-fruits and flowers were laid by the pious.

Pâtâla (Sk) The nether world, the antipodes; hence in popular superstition the infernal regions, and philosophically the two Americas, which are antipodal to India. Also, the South Pole as standing opposite to Meru, the North Pole.

Popol Vuh. The Sacred Books of the Guatemalians. Quiché MSS., discovered by Brasseur de Bourbourg.

Quetzo-Cohuatl (Mex.) The serpent-god in the Mexican Scriptures and legends. His wand and other “land-marks” show him to be some great Initiate of antiquity, who received the name of “Serpent” on account of his wisdom, long life and powers. To this day the aboriginal tribes of Mexico call themselves by the names of various reptiles, animals and birds.

Quiche Cosmogony. Called Popol Vuh; discovered by the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg. (See “Popol Vuh”.)

Quinanes. A very ancient race of giants, of whom there are many traditions, not only in the folk-lore but in the history of Central America. Occult science teaches that the race which preceded our own human race was one of giants, which gradually decreased, after the Atlantean deluge had almost swept them off the face of the earth, to the present size of man.

Sibac (Quiché) The reed from the pith of which the third race of men was created, according to the scripture of the Guatemalians, called the Popol Vuh.

Tanga-Tango (Peruv.) An idol much reverenced by the Peruvians. It is the symbol of the Triune or the Trinity, “One in three, and three in One”, and existed before our era.

Tia-Huanaco (Peruv.) Most magnificent ruins of a pre-historic city in Peru.

Ulûpî (Sk.) A daughter of Kauravya, King of the Nâgas in Pâtâla (the nether world, or more correctly, the Antipodes, America). Exoterically, she was the daughter of a king or chief of an aboriginal tribe of the Nâgas, or Nagals (ancient adepts) in pre-historic America—Mexico most likely, or Uruguay. She was married to Arjuna, the disciple of Krishna, whom every tradition, oral and written, shows travelling five thousand years ago to Pâtâla (the Antipodes). The Purânic tale is based on a historical fact. Moreover, Ulûpi, as a name, has a Mexican ring in it, like “ Atlan ”, “ Aclo ”, etc.

Uragas (Sk.) The Nâgas (serpents) dwelling in Pâtâla the nether world or hell, in popular thought ; the Adepts, High Priests and Initiates of Central and South America, known to the ancient Aryans; where Arjuna wedded the daughter of the king of the Nâgas—Ulûpî. Nagalism or Nâga-worship prevails to this day in Cuba and Hayti, and Voodooism, the chief branch of the former, has found its way into New Orleans. In Mexico the chief “sorcerers ”, the “ medicine men ”, are called Nagals to this day; just as thousands of years ago the Chaldean and Assyrian High Priests were called Nargals, they being chiefs of the Magi (Rab.Mag), the office held at one time by the prophet Daniel. The word Nâga, “ wise serpent ”, has become universal, because it is one of the few words that have survived the wreck of the first universal language. In South as well as in Central and North America, the aborigines use the word, from Behring Straits down to Uruguay, where it means a “chief”, a “teacher and a “ serpent ”. The very word Uraga may have reached India and been adopted through its connection, in prehistoric times, with South America and Uruguay itself, for the name belongs to the American Indian vernacular. The origin of the Uragas, for all that the Orientalists know, may have been in Uruguai, as there are legends about them which locate their ancestors the Nâgas in Pâtâla, the antipodes, or America.

Votan (Mex.) The deified hero of the Mexicans, and probably the same as Quetzal-Coatl; a “son of the snakes”, one admitted “to the snake’s hole”, which means an Adept admitted to the Initiation in the secret chamber of the Temple. The missionary Brasseur de Bourbourg, seeks to prove him a descendant of Ham, the accursed son of Noah. (See Isis Unveiled, I., pp. 545 et seq.)

Zuni. The name of a certain tribe of Western American Indians, a very ancient remnant of a still more ancient race. (Secret Doctrine, II., p. 628.)

See Also: Hivim or Chivim, Kuklos Anagkes, etc.


The Popol Vuh


Sacred Book of the Quiché Maya People

Translation and Commentary by Allen J. Christenson

Full Text Online (PDF)

See Also: Literal Translation By Allen J. Christenson


Translated into English by

Delia Goetz and Sylvanus Griswold Morley

from Adrián Recino’s translation

from Quiché into Spanish

Full Text Online (PDF)



Translated by Dennis Tedlock

with commentary based on the ancient knowledge of the modern Quiche Maya

Full Text Online (PDF)


A Land of Mystery, by H. P. Blavatsky

On American Civilizations from Theosophy Magazine


Sources of Early American Civilization
The Children of the Sun
The Feathered-Serpent
The Popol Vuh

Sources of Early American Civilization

What is the origin of the American Indian? The civilizations of Persia, China and Egypt had their roots in the remote past of the Fourth, Atlantean Race. But who ever associates American civilization with so ancient a source? Do we not assume that, for all practical purposes, American history began with Columbus’ discovery of the New World? Yet, this New World, geologically considered, is older than Europe, the continent having risen from the ocean bed during the palmy days of Atlantis, which began to sink millions of years ago. Does it seem probable that any land would remain uninhabited for millions of years?

In consideration of these questions, we should apply first of all the principle of continuity: Nature’s processes are never broken, although a constant change of land masses as well as races is always in progress. This transforming process culminates at certain periods in the breakingasunder of land surfaces, on which reincarnate and develop races gradually adapted to and modified by the new conditions, thus producing new cycles of history. Hence wherever separated land areas or divergent races appear, we must look for the hidden connections and intervening types which once bound them together in one continuous line of evolution, the whole process preparing for higher races and at last for Perfected Man.

Although one anthropologist assigned an age of 50,000 years to the remains of a human skeleton found at New Orleans, most so-called “authorities” believe there is no evidence of early man in America. On the other hand a great number of scientists accept the existence of the former continents of Lemuria and Atlantis and agree that there was a connection between the latter and America in former times. If such connections ever existed, why would there not have been migrations from those older continents to America? In fact the Mayas of Central America, the Toltecs and many other tribes maintained that their ancestors came from the East. For generations, according to Lewis Spence, the Antilles or West India Islands were recognized as being the remains of an Island continent called Antilia, shown on a globe by Behaim in 1492. This writer also says that in a letter to Columbus in 1474, Toscanelli refers to Antilia; also that long after the South American coast had been explored and demonstrated as a continental area, it was identified with Antilia, as two maps in the Egerton manuscript (now in the British Museum) distinctly prove. But Antilia was very evidently only the disconnected portion of a larger region, as indicated by deep sea soundings in the Atlantic basin. These have revealed the presence of an elevated ridge 9,000 feet higher than the ocean floor, beginning near the coast of Ireland, extending through the Azores southwesterly to the vicinity of the Amazon river; then shifting almost at right angles it proceeds southeast toward the African coast and on down to Tristan d’Acunha. Other indications of a former connection between the New World and the Old are the similar geological structure of the opposing coast lines of South America and Africa; and either an identity or close resemblance between the fauna and flora of the United States and Europe. In the forests of Virginia and Florida are many varieties of trees corresponding with European flora of the tertiary age term for term. How did they reach the New World? That the transition was not by way of the isthmus that once filled up Behring Strait is proved by the fact that a great number of these are not found west of the Rocky Mountains. Stones in the Canary Islands — a remnant of Atlantis — bear sculptured symbols similar to those found on the shore of Lake Superior. The form of skull belonging to the Guanches of the Canary Islands is the same as that of the Caribs of the West Indies, the Mayas and other tribes, which leads us to postulate the unity of race of the early men of these islands and America. (See Secret Doctrine, II, 789 for further proofs).

Basing their ideas on such facts as these and also on Plato’s story of Atlantis — the name given by him to the last island only, which was engulfed some 11,000 years ago — many reconstructions of the lost continent have been mapped out in recent years; but these give only an approximate idea of its size and shape, confined as they are to a small area of the Atlantic. Although the origin and development of the Fourth Race was at about the mid-point of the present ocean, the continent extended from the coast of Venezuela, across to North Africa and from Newfoundland nearly to the coast of France. And who can tell but what Lindbergh’s air flight parallelled a well-known route on old land now buried beneath the water? Going still further back — how long, who can say? — when a tropical climate prevailed in the Arctic region, one could cross almost by dry land from Norway, via Iceland and Greenland, to the lands that now surround Hudson’s Bay. This may account for the similarity between the artificial mounds in the United States and the tumuli in Norway, which have led some archaeologists to suggest that they were the work of Norwegian mariners who discovered America a thousand years ago under the leadership of Leif Ericson: a re-discovery rather, for no one knows the age either of the mounds or the tumuli.

But why did a Greek philosopher, 400 B.C. give the name Atlantis to the lost continent? It is not a Greek word, nor can it be referred to any known language of the Old World. The root of the word is found, however, in the Nahuatl (Mexican) tongue: atl signifies, among other things, water. From this comes a series of words, one of which is Atlan, the name of a town in Darien in existence when Columbus discovered America. Is it not very extraordinary to have found in aboriginal America a town called by a name which contains a purely local element, foreign to every other country, in the alleged fiction of Plato? — for until quite recently his story was considered a mere myth. The same may be said of the name America, says H. P. Blavatsky, which may one day be found more closely related to Meru, the sacred mount in the center of the seven continents, than to the name Amerigo Vespucci. Prof. Wilder thinks Vespucci would have been more likely to have used his surname if he had designed to give a title to the country. When first discovered America was found to bear among some native tribes the name Atlanta.

But how, on the basis of an Atlantis connection alone, are we to account for apparent similarities to the Chinese language among some American tribes, or between the cyclopean structures of Tiahuanaco and Easter Island? A Chinese writer referred to America, says H.P.B., when speaking of that “far distant land into which pious men and heavy storms had transferred the sacred doctrine.” And she adds that this sacred doctrine of the land which was the cradle of physical man and of the Fifth Race had found its way into the so-called New World ages and ages before the “sacred doctrine” of Buddhism. But no doctrine is taken to a land without inhabitants. Who were these men, whose fossil remains even have never been exhumed; or if so, are believed to be comparatively recent? De la Vega, a native historian of Inca blood, states that “Masses of enormous human bones were found in America near Misorte precisely on the spot which local tradition points out as the landing of those giants who overran America when it had hardly risen from the waters.” The natives believe that the massive buildings at Tiahuanaco were erected by giants. But there was, according to the Secret Doctrine, a western connection with India. The India of pre-historic times stretched into the Gobi desert and included Mongolia, where the yellow race was developed. Hence it was that a pedestrian going north might then have reached — hardly wetting his feet — the Alaskan peninsula through Manchuria, across the Gulf of Tartary, the Kurile and Aleutian Islands; while another traveller with a canoe and starting from the south, could have walked over from Siam, crossed the Polynesian Islands and trudged into any part of South America. Might not this account for the traditions of the Peruvians that their ancestors came from the south? In fact, De la Vega calls himself an Antarctic Indian. We know, too, that old Lemuria lay in the Antarctic region and remaining portions of it might easily have been adjacent to the southernmost part of South America.

A connection between India and America was always assumed. When Columbus set out on his voyage of discovery, he had in view a western route to India. Until the appearance of a map published at Basle in 1522, wherein the name of America appears for the first time, the latter was supposed to be a part of India. Why were the islands reached by Columbus called the West Indies, or how did the aborigines of America come by the name “Indians?” Did it just happen, or was there some natural cause for the application of an old name, just as pioneers today bring with them the names of localities from which they came, or speak of themselves as French or Germans although on American soil? At any rate, an identity is found in the names of certain “medicine men” and priests who exist to this day in Mexico, and East Indians. In Hindu works America is referred to as Patala, meaning the antipodes, and Arjuna, Krishna’s disciple, is said to have descended to Patala and married a daughter of one of the Nagas, or Serpents of Wisdom. That must have been 5,000 years ago at least. There is a very curious statement in the Secret Doctrine (Vol. II, 132) about a race of Nagas, one thousand in number only, born or rather sprung from Kasyapa’s wife, for the purpose of peopling this country. Was there a time, then, when Wise Men dwelt in America? And were these men Red Indians?

In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna speaks of four castes distinguished by the color of their skin: Brahmas, white; Kshatriyas or warriors, red; Vaisyas or merchants, yellow; Sudras or servants, black. Some consideration of the colors of the different races might be suggestive in this connection. The Occultist does not accept the Biblical division of races as descendants of Shem, Ham and Japhet, yet recognizes but three entirely distinct primeval races whose evolution, formation and development followed parallel lines with the evolution, formation and development of three geological strata, namely black, red-yellow and the brown-white. Man was universally considered in antiquity as born of the earth, and such was the profane explanation of the term autochthones. For human complexion was as much derived from the earth as it was determined by climate. The light yellow was the color of the first solid race (the later Third). The Third gave birth to the Fourth, which became “black with sin;” this portion of humanity being gradually transformed into red-yellow (of whomthe Red Indians and the Mongolians are descendants), and finally into brown-white, the color of the Fifth Aryan Race. (S.D., II, 250, 424-425). So Arjuna and the race of Nagas must have been an Aryan infusion among a people which in course of time became a distinct type — Fourth Race Americans, known by the general name now of Red Indians. The Master, in a letter to Mr. Sinnett, states that the majority of people on the globe today belong to the seventh sub-race of the Fourth Race. There are now practically no pure races, unadulterated by admixtures of many different branches. There were brown, red, yellow, white and black Atlanteans, giants and dwarfs, for the term “Atlantean” covers an almost countless number of races and nations. And again, “In nearly every vulgarized popular fable from the Sanskrit Arya … down to Adam, fashioned of ‘red earth,’ the genetical story has a deep occult meaning, and an indirect connection with the origin of man and of the subsequent races.” Donnelly is responsible for saying that in later ages so desirous were the Egyptians of preserving the aristocratic distinction of the color of their skin that they represented themselves on the monuments as of a crimson hue — an exaggeration of their original race complexion. In this nation, however, as in others was a variety of peoples and colors. So it is but natural that in the dispersion of races from Atlantis, both before and as the continent was visited by cataclysmic disturbances and showed signs of sinking, some went east, locating on the shores of the Mediterranean and penetrating into the more remote regions of Asia, and some came west; and thus the same varieties of color obtained and still persist.

We can now understand how it was that the Spaniards in the Cibola expeditions met with white savage chiefs. The name “White Indians” was given to the Menominees once around Lake Michigan; many of the Zunis are almost white, with blue eyes and auburn hair; the Mandans are almost white, while their neighbors, the Crows, are very dark; the Dakotas are a shade lighter than olive. William Penn in a letter to a friend describes the tribes in Pennsylvania as being of “so lively a resemblance” to the Jews that “a man would think himself in Duke’s Place or Berry Street in London where he seeth them.” The Toltecs in Mexico resembled the Jews and, according to a native writer, are their descendants. The ancient Peruvians appear, from hair found in their tombs, to have been an auburn-haired race. Ferdinand Columbus, in the account of his father’s voyage, compares the inhabitants of Guanaani to the Canary Islanders and describes the people of San Domingo as still more beautiful and fair. Donnelly concluded that there was no doubt but that red, white, black and yellow men had united to form the original population of America and said, “When science is able to disabuse itself of the theory that the aborigines of America are all red men, and all belong to one race, we may hope that the confluence upon the continent of widely different races from different countries may come to be recognized and intelligently studied.” Many recent “authorities” still contend that there is but one general type of American Indian. We will remember Mr. Judge’s statement in The Ocean of Theosophy (pp. 127-128) that by the method of mixture, precipitation and separation, Nature brings about the greatest perfection. The remotest ancestors of some of the inhabitants of the now miserable pueblo of Aclo — the former Atlan — were allied at one time as closely with the old Greeks and Romans as they were with the true inland Chinamen. Many Greek designs and forms of architecture are found in Central America. The Greeks as well as the Egyptians and the Phoenicians trace back to the last sub-race of Atlantis. Many tribes emigrated to lands which in course of time, owing to new geological convulsions, became islands. Being thus forcibly separated from larger centers of civilization, they gradually degenerated and fell into an abject and savage condition. (The student may supplement this sketch by turning to S.D., II, 743-745).

The passing of the Red Indians is not without sadness to them nor without a tremendous weight of Karma on the white races. Upon first meeting, the Indians were friendly and unsuspicious, and it was chiefly on account of the white man’s treachery, plunder and cruelty, that their original attitude was changed to distrust and hatred. Preserving in their legends and holding many beliefs closer to fact than those current among their conquerors; observing many customs and ceremonies truer to Nature than those of the people to whom they became subject; forced to adopt ideas which in their hearts they rejected, they have watched the gradual encroachment upon their territory and abolition of their rights with resentment. Not so very many years ago, some Indians in the United States appealed to the great “White Father” in Washington for the possession of four small lakes, the petition being written on the tiny surface of a piece of fabric, covered with barely a dozen representations of animals and birds. This ideographic writing is the earliest mode of recording events and ideas. And how old this is may be inferred from some signs found on hatchets of the Palaeolithic period, which began hundreds of thousands of years ago. The American savages have a number of such kinds of writing. “As the chief element in the languages of the Fifth Race is the Aryan Sanskrit of the ‘Brown-White’ geological stock, so the predominating element in Atlantis was a language which has now survived but in the dialects of some American Red Indian tribes, and in the Chinese speech of the inland Chinamen … a language which was an admixture of the agglutinative and the monosyllabic.” (Five Years of Theosophy). All of those who have regarded the ideographs of the Red Indians and even the Chinese characters as “attempts of the early races to express their untutored thoughts,” will be loath to accept the statement that writing was invented by the Atlanteans and not by the Phoenicians.

As the Fourth Race overlapped the Third, so the presence side by side of the Indians and the white man is witness of the overlapping of the Fifth and Fourth. Already there are indications that many red men have reincarnated among the white races, there to receive and work out their karmic relations. Nor are all these ties of hate, for many bonds of love and friendship have been cemented between the two peoples.

Pure Anglo-Saxons hardly three hundred years ago, the Americans of the United States have already become a nation apart and, owing to a strong admixture of various nationalities and inter-marriage, almost a race sui generis, mentally and physically. They are the germs of the sixth sub-race which is now forming here and which in some few hundred years more will become most decidedly the pioneers of that race which must succeed to the present European or Fifth sub-race. In about 25,000 years they will launch into preparations for the seventh sub-race, after which the Sixth Root Race will have appeared on the stage of our Round. When this will be who knows save the Masters of Wisdom? And they are as silent upon the subject as the snow-capped peaks that tower above them. All we know is that it will slowly and silently come into existence. But, do we think the future race will come about of itself, as tomorrow will succeed today, without any effort on our part? H.P.B. says, “It is the mankind of the New World whose mission and Karma it is to sow the seeds for a forthcoming, grander, and far more glorious Race than any we know of at present.” If this prophecy is fulfilled, it will be due to the fact that the great object of the original Theosophical Society has been achieved by having established a real Universal Brotherhood, without distinction of race, creed, caste or color, because it will embrace all. And who will compose this race? Who, indeed, but ourselves and reincarnated Red, Yellow, Black, Brown, and White Men of all climes and ages.

“The Present is the Child of the Past; the Future, the begotten of the Present. And yet, O present moment! Knowest thou not that thou hast no parent, nor canst thou have a child; that thou art ever begetting but thyself? Thus, are the Past, the Present, and the Future, the ever-living trinity in one — the Mahamaya of the Absolute Is.”

THEOSOPHY, Vol. 15, No. 12, October, 1927, Pages 543-549

The Children of the Sun

The ancient glory of America is to be sought in Mexico, Central America and Peru. In impassable valleys or on inaccessible heights lie buried hundreds of once mighty cities without a name and lost even to the memory of man. Up to the time of the Spanish conquest the people of America were unknown, and thereafter the jealousy and suspicion of the conquerors created an effectual barrier between them and the outside world and precluded any scientific investigation. Even the enthusiastic accounts of Cortes and Pizarro and their armies of robbers and monks in regard to the wonderful cities they had found, were long discredited. Not until the beginning of the last century did the corroborative reports of travelers bring belated attention to the marvellous antiquities of these lands which, judging by the massiveness and durability of the architecture, equalled or surpassed the splendor of ancient Egypt.

In the basin of Lake Titicaca, nearly 13,000 feet above sea-level, are cyclopean ruins that have no counterpart on the American continent and no rival in kind on the face of the globe. Tradition ascribes them to giants who reared them in a night — five exiled brothers from “beyond the mounts,” whom an angry deity turned to stone for refusing hospitality to his messenger. They worshipped the moon as their progenitor and lived before the “Sons and Virgins of the Sun.” Likewise, the topes of India are attributed to the five Pandus of the Lunar race; hence the similarity between the Aryan and American tradition is obvious, and the Solar and Lunar races of the old world reappear in the new. The great doorway of the temple at Tiahuanacu is hewn out of a single block of rock 7 feet high, 131/2 wide, and 11/2 thick. The upper part of the massive portal is covered with symbolic figures. In the center is a head surrounded by solar rays, and in each hand a scepter suggestive of the body of a serpent, the ends of which terminate in heads of condors and tigers. Statues similar to those on Easter Island are still standing and another head indicates that the original figure must have been 18 feet high. Peru is covered with temples, mounds, pyramids, round towers, sun circles and monoliths inscribed with hieroglyphs which were as much of a mystery to the Incas as to us, proving that they were the work of a people who lived far anterior to our historical period. Madame Blavatsky says that however modern or ancient some of the American temples may seem, their mathematical proportions will be found to correspond with those of the Egyptian religious edifices and belong to the age of Hermes Trismegistus. In the Peruvian temples are the remains of artificial lakes, such as were found in the precincts of Karnak, of Nagon-Wat, and within the grounds of the temple at Copan and Santa Cruz del Quiche in Central America. In all is a similar disposition of court-yards, adyta, passages and steps, the whole being laid out with reference to cyclical calculations. If each of these was built by a different nation, none of whom had had intercourse with the other for ages, it is also certain that they were all planned and constructed under the supervision of priests who had been initiated into the same mysteries which were taught all over the world.

Many believe that the primitive Andean stock arrived from Atlantis on the shores of Brazil and, working its way by degrees up the Amazon, arrived at last in Peru; certainly migrations from both east and west were possible. When Dr. Schliemann was excavating the site of Troy, he found in the treasure house of Priam a beautifully wrought bronze of a design and shape hitherto unknown in Mediterranean countries, and this wonderful vase bore the inscription “From King Chronos of Atlantis.” Ten years later in the Louvre he discovered its mate, but the latter came from the ruined temple of Tiahuanacu. Some idea of the antiquity of the pre-Inca civilization may be had from the fact that remains of pottery, ornaments and idols have been found at a depth of sixty-two feet under the guano. This Peruvian fertilizer has accumulated only a few lines within the past three hundred years; therefore, if we allow so much as an inch of this deposit in a century, we shall be carried back about 75,000 years, corresponding to the era of Osiris and Hermes in Egypt. From fossils of animals and plants that cannot exist above an elevation of 11,000 feet, it is inferred that in former times the Andes were much lower than at present, and some geologists claim that since their upheaval they have sunk three times beneath the ocean.

How many nations have had their rise and fall during all these millenniums we do not know, but at least five distinct types of architecture are found in Peru, the latest alone belonging to the Incas. H.P.B. observes that if the origin, development and final grouping of races are ever to be unravelled, we must begin by massing together the concrete imagery of the early thought, more eloquent in its stationary form than the verbal expression of the same which is but too liable to be distorted in inaccurate and inadequate renditions. The student of early American art, especially of that in Mexico and Central America, must learn to read symbols, for it is largely representative — not so much a portrayal of human, animal, or supposedly divine forms, but of ideas. On the famous Chavin stone (in Markham’s Incas of Peru), the author remarks that everything seems to have an intention or meaning.*

* The reader is referred to reproductions found in numerous books of travel in Peru; also to “The Land of Mystery,” Vol. III, p. 561, and Vol. IV, pp. 13, 84, 129, THEOSOPHY.

In the absence of historical data we are obliged to fall back upontradition. According to the latter there was a time when the inhabitants of the New World were broken up into warring tribes. At last the Highest Deity, the Sun, taking pity upon them, sent his two children, Manco Ccapac and his wife and sister, Mama Ocllo,* to instruct them in the arts of civilization and peace. This divine couple made their appearance on the sacred island in Lake Titicaca and from there proceeded on their mission as far as Cuzco, the site of the later Inca capital. Manco is the South American Manu, and from him the Incas claimed descent. The Aymaras also claimed him as their instructor and founder of their civilization, but neither could prove the fact and neither knew anything about the ancient megalithic people. The sacred island was the Mecca of the Peruvians; but no one could enter the consecrated shrine until he had undergone a period of fasting and purification and passed the Three Portals (places of trial) that led thereto.

* The counterparts of Osiris and Isis in Egypt.

Montecinos gives a long list of kings that extends back to 900 B.C. In the reign of the sixty-second Inca, who ruled about the time of Christ, he says that there was a great invasion from the south, that the king was defeated and fled with a handful of followers to a place called Tampu-Tocco, the place or Temple of Three Windows. Here something of the former culture was preserved and also the ancient religion, which elsewhere was degraded, and the people fell into a more or less barbarous state. The Indians, evidently to mislead the Spaniards, said that Tampu-Tocco was south of Cuzco; but in 1911 Prof. Hiram Bingham discovered a very remarkable and almost inaccessible megalithic city near Machu Picchu, northwest of Cuzco, which alone answers to the description of the Incas’ refuge, and where were exhumed all the indicia of the Mysteries.* After some five or six centuries, under the leadership of the Ayar Manco and his three brothers, some of the tribes set forth to seek new territory. Manco is said to have carried a golden wand or wedge, and where the soil should be found so fertile that the wand would sink its entire length into the soft earth, there was to be the new city. This marvel occurred at Cuzco, in 565 A.D. according to Montecinos, but nearer 1100 A.D. in the opinion of modern historians. On the way Manco is said to have disposed of his three brothers, which Garcilasso interprets as symbolical of his laying aside those ideas and habits that belong to a purely “rational life.” The Ayar Manco claimed to be a “Child of the Sun,” and his golden wand, sometimes connected with the first Manco Ccapac, was undoubtedly another symbolical mark of his rank. It is a curious fact that the word Manco has no meaning in the Inca language, nor has the word Ayar, which Señor Lopez thinks may be the Sanscrit word, Ajar, meaning “primitive chief.” Ccapac means “rich,” but as a title signifies rich in the possession of those qualifications requisite for rulers, eleven of whom took it. However mythical and indefinite this information, it is obvious that there was a line of great instructors and leaders in Peru, who appeared from time to time as necessity or opportunity arose.

* See The National Geographic, April, 1913.

Inca is the Quichua word for emperor and the name of the aristocratic caste among the Peruvians. To the reigning Inca the blindest obedience was given; his person was sacred and he was the object of divine honors. The highest officers of the land could not appear shod in his presence, a custom pointing to oriental origin. All the statesmen of the land were of the Inca class, the high priest generally being a brother or near relative of the king. As children of the Sun, they wore on their breasts plates of gold about five inches in diameter representing the deity. The practice of boring the ears of the youth of royal blood and inserting in them golden rings, increasing in size as the men advanced in rank, bears a strong resemblance to the images of Buddha, and won for the nobles the title of Orejones, or great-eared people. Beginning probably with Pachacuti, the custom was established of marrying their sisters, as with the Copts in Egypt, so that a peculiar race might be and was produced, far superior to the average Peruvian.

As direct descendants of the sun, the list of Inca sovereigns begins with the Deity, called Illa Tici Uira-cocha, often shortened to Viracocha. Illa means “light;” Tici, “foundation” or the beginning of things; Uira, possibly a corruption of Pirua, which means “storehouse;” Cocha, “lake,” but in this connection “abyss” — that is, the primeval waters of space. To this combination was occasionally added the word Yachachic, meaning “teacher.” These names were not invented by the Incas who had them from earlier times. In four words are expressed the ideas connected with the beginning of a period of manifestation, based on the “storehouse” of a prior cycle of evolution. And who is the “teacher” but Ishwara? — “the preceptor of all, even of the earliest of created beings,” says Patanjali. The first recorded king whose deity is thus described was Pirua Paccari Manco. One writer translates Pirua as “Revealer of Light.” Although etymological deductions are often erroneous, we cannot fail to note in this name the root Pir. The Greek equivalent is pyr, as found in our words pyre and pyramid, which Plato construed as fire-mountain. Paccari is the word for the dawn. So it seems warrantable to believe that Pirua Paccari Manco was the seed (storehouse) Manu, the spiritual ancestor and Elder Brother of the Incas. The name Viracocha was assumed by two of the Incas. One of them when a prince was banished by his father and sent to tend the flocks on the desolate Andean heights. Here Viracocha, the deity, appeared to him as an old man and warned him of impending danger to the realm. The prince told his father about the vision, but the latter paid no attention to the prophecy, which soon came true; and had it not been for the courage and leadership of the son, the Peruvians would have been defeated. Afterwards the people proclaimed the youth Inca, who in gratitude to Viracocha, built a temple to the deity and took his name.

It is very difficult to obtain a correct idea of the beliefs of the Peruvians. We need to remember that they had no written language. Historical events and ideas were painted on boards and there was a class of wise men, Amautas, who instructed the pupils in the schools, taught them the use of the quipus, passed on their knowledge and the memory of by-gone events and interpreted these pictorial representations. Some of the latter were translated into Spanish, with the help of natives; but when we consider the difficulties involved, their transcription by ignorant scribes, and the prejudice and fanaticism of the Spanish historians of the time, it is not strange that so much confusion and contradiction arise. Nevertheless Theosophy is the key that fits into the fragments that have been preserved and opens for us a glimpse into the Wisdom-Religion of these American Children of the Sun.

Behind the Deity already named was the Supreme Spirit, to which a temple was erected at Cuzco apart from the temple of the sun, and which was represented in the latter by an oval of gold above that of the sun deity. Nine prayers have come down to us in which there is a plaintive cry for a knowledge of the Unknowable, exceedingly touching in its simplicity. This recognition of the “Unknowable” was without doubt confined to the highest class. There has been a common, but perhaps erroneous idea that Pachacamac was the Supreme Deity. Pacha means “earth,” and camac, “maker” or “moulder,” so evidently he was one of the “Creators.” He is said to have provided all things, plants and animals, with souls by the mere exercise of his will. In his famous temple there was an idol which gave out oracles and was consulted by people from far and near. It seems likely that the coast people had degraded the primitive religion of megalithic times into a system of soothsaying and sorcery, and that here prevailed one of the downward “moon cycles,” or spiritualism. A legend connected with Pachacamac is, however, not without significance. After the deluge, of which many versions occur in South America, the prehistoric town of Tiahuanacu was regarded as the seat of a new creation. Here the creator made man out of clay, painted the dresses of each nation with a particular color, endowed them with language, furnished them with food and seeds, and then commanded them to enter the bowels of the earth (physical birth?), whence they came upward in the places he ordered them to go. Seven classes of Incas thus repeopled the earth, as in the Puranic allegories.

As the father of the Inca was the sun, all the populace worshipped the visible luminary. There was also a secondary worship of the moon, thunder and lightning (Jupiter?), and the dawn, represented by the morning star, Chasca (Venus). Each family had its household god, like the Romans, while all the families of a tribus had their common ancestor or ancestral god, which by uniting great numbers in blood relationship, fostered the community spirit and kept the village system on a very firm basis. Markham speaks of the curious belief in a spiritual essence of all things, that is, the astral counterpart or mother. Every household had its Sara Mama or maize mother, to which prayers and sacrifices were made. In like manner there was a Llama Mama for the flocks. The spirit of the earth, Pacha Mama, was a special object of adoration. Figures of llamas were made with a cavity in their backs into which the sacrificial offerings were placed and then buried in the fields, a custom which persists to this day. The offerings were chica, spirits, and coca, those things which the poor husbandmen loved best. In the special sacrifices which came to be generally observed, the sacrificer said to his god, “What I love best to Thee I give.” The custom prevailed among all the North American Indians of giving up that which was truly most prized. Human sacrifice, so revoltingly common in Mexico and Central America, was exceedingly rare in Peru. Valera declares there was a law against it which was strictly observed. He admits that Huahua, or children, and Yuyucs, or adults, were sacrificed, but explains that by the former were meant lambs, and by the latter, full-grown llamas. At the greatest of the Raymi festivals, beginning on the 22nd of December (the summer solstice in Peru), Prescott says the new fire was kindled by means of a concave mirror of polished metal, which concentrated the rays of the sun upon a quantity of cotton and set it on fire.* If the sun was obscured, the fire was produced by friction. This sacred flame was entrusted to the Virgins of the Sun, and if through any neglect they allowed it to go out during the year, the event was regarded as a great calamity.

* There was a similar use of mirrors by Numa, in early Roman days.

At Cuzco was the famous temple of the sun, approached by a series of enchanting terraces, filled with marvellous designs wrought in silver and gold. The very drain pipes and garden utensils were of solid silver, and the inner and outer walls of the temple were covered with sheets of gold. So splendid were the surroundings that the entire quarter was called the Coricancha, or City of Gold. Within the temple was a huge plaque of gold upon which was depicted the face of the deity, so placed that the beams of the morning sun fell upon it and bathed it in a flood of almost unbearable radiance. The atmosphere of mysterious splendor was enhanced by the presence of the magnificently attired mummies of thirteen royal Incas grouped around the altar-piece. This object fell as booty to a Spanish gambler who lost it on a single throw of the dice. In the adjoining temple of the moon, the mummies of the queens were similarly disposed. Mummification was general throughout Peru, the methods employed being practically the same as those in Egypt. The similarities between the customs of these two countries have been too often commented upon to need repetition, and have led to much speculation as to possible intercourse between them. The common center in Atlantis from which colonists to both the old world and the new migrated, and the diffusion of a common knowledge among the Adepts of every country sufficiently account for the likeness.

Works of public utility such as cyclopean walls, fortifications, irrigation systems extending for hundreds of miles, reservoirs, bridges and exquisitely paved roads covering the land as with a net, attest to the greatness of the civilization. As in Egypt, enormous blocks of the hardest stone weighing many tons were moved miles from the place where quarried and fitted together with such nicety that the point of a needle cannot be inserted between them. Garcilasso speaks of the “Tired Stone,” weighing a thousand tons, half way up the slope, never having been moved to its intended position. In Cuzco is the famous stone of twelve corners, fitted perfectly into the wall of which it forms a part. Did these ancient masons know that the universe is built on the plan of a twelve-sided figure? Agriculture was an art among the Peruvians. Their stair-case farms must have been much more spectacular than the hanging gardens of Babylon, for some of the banks consisted of as many as fifty terraces, each ten feet high. The annual recurrenceof agricultural events, such as the preparation of the soil, sowing and harvest, all dependent upon the calendar, were the occasion of festivals, partly of a religious nature, in which the Inca and nobles took part. For calculating the solstices and equinoxes stone columns were devised, called Intihuatana — literally, “the place where the sun is tied up.” Inti was originally the name of the familiar spirit of Manco Ccapac in the form of a falcon,* and finally came to be applied to the sun as a deity. As the giver of daylight, the sun was called Punchau or Lupi. The moon, as a deity, was Pasca Mama, but as planet, its name was Quilla. Here we see the Peruvians distinguishing between physical bodies and their ensouling intelligence, or deity.

* Connote the hawk of Horus, symbol of the sun.

The government of the Incas was an inexorable, yet withal beneficent despotism. Their necessarily complicated system worked without friction and almost automatically, as instanced by a soldier of the conquest. One of its features was that when any calamity overtook a particular district, another was assigned to bring aid. When the Spanish massacred the inhabitants, burnt the dwellings, and destroyed the crops in one district, the soldier saw the right people come from the right district to aid the sufferers, help rebuild the dwellings and resow the crops. The condition of the people, though one of tutelage and dependence, secured for them a large amount of material comfort and happiness and want was unknown. Convincing testimony of the merits of the Incal government is given by another soldier. At the close of his life, troubled with regrets and full of remorse, he left a “legacy of truth” to the King of Spain, in which he says:

“The Incas governed in such a way that in all the land neither a thief, nor a vicious man, nor a bad, dishonest woman was known. The men all had honest and profitable employment. The woods and mines and all kinds of property were so divided that each man knew what belonged to him, and there were no lawsuits. Crimes were so little known among them that an Indian with 100,000 pieces of gold in his house left it open, placing only a little stick across the door as the sign that the master was out, and nobody went in! But when they saw that we placed locks and keys on our doors, they understood that it was from fear of thieves, and when they saw that we had thieves amongst us, they despised us. Your Majesty must understand that my reason for making this statement is to relieve my conscience, for we have destroyed this people by our bad example.”

The whole territory was divided into three parts: one for the Sun, one for the Inca, and the last for the people, which was equally shared among them and reassigned annually. The land was cultivated wholly by the people, that of the Sun being first attended to. That of the old, the sick, and those in any way disabled came next. Then, each man was allowed to till his own ground, but always under the general obligation to assist his neighbor if the latter was unable to help himself. Lastly, they cultivated the land of the Inca. Thus the ordinary Peruvian was born and brought up to devote himself first of all to the interests of others. The right performance of duty was the paramount consideration in life. Idleness was unknown and punishable by law. There seems to have been little stimulus to ambition or to rise above one’s fellows, for a man could not step outside his caste. Markham says “the Inca government finds a close affinity in the theories of modern socialists … being the single instance of such realization in the world’s history.” The system points to oriental origin and to a primary ideal aiming to harmonize the life of man with the life and laws of great nature. The “Highest Deity,” the Sun, is the chief exemplar of regularity, law, and hence of the performance of duty, and is the regulator and setter of man’s duties. The Masters, the highest exemplars on earth, live a life of unswerving duty to mankind. Krishna says if he were not indefatigable in the performance of right action, all creatures would perish. Had the Children of the Sun been faithful in the carrying out of their duties as wards of the people, they would never have been conquered, and what new and glorious possibilities might have been developed from the general scheme of their system, who can say? But however fallen from their former greatness the later Incas, their rule was infinitely superior to that of their conquerors. The Spaniards, by imposing dogmatic Christianity upon the survivors, brought about a condition of degradation that bears no comparison to the “pagan” state they destroyed.

The wealth of the Incas was enormous and much of it is still in existence though concealed. At the time Atahualpa was captured, enough gold was demanded for his release to fill to the roof the house in which he was held prisoner. A train of 10,000 llamas loaded with the amount necessary was arrested in the Andes upon the report of the unfortunate man’s murder and the treasure so effectually concealed that not a trace of it has ever been found. “The Weird Tale,” by Mr. Judge* informs us that such hiding places are known to the Adepts, who are obliged at certain seasons of the year to guard the subterranean passages leading thereto. In Isis Unveiled (Vol. I, pp. 595-598) Madame Blavatsky speaks of having in her possession a plan of the tunnel extending from Cuzco to Lima and thence into Bolivia, which is filled with the accumulations of many generations of Incas, the aggregate value of which is incalculable.

* THEOSOPHY, Vol. IV, 314.

THEOSOPHY, Vol. 16, No. 1, November, 1927, Pages 23-31

The Feathered-Serpent

Under the distinctively American name and symbol of the Feathered-Serpent are to be found the Great Teachers of Mexico and Central America. Who has not heard of the “Fair God,” whose promise to come again led the Mexicans to believe Cortes was the returning Quetzalcoatl? There may be patriot souls in that country who still look for his coming and long for the time when the feathered-serpent will replace the Christian cross. Quetzal is the name of the paradise bird and coatl, the word for serpent. Its Maya equivalent is Kukul-Can, and Gucumatz in the Quiche dialect of the Popol Vuh. When appeared American civilization under the protection of the Feathered-Serpent is a much debated question. Augustus Le Plongeon endeavored to prove that Egyptian civilization had its inception among the Mayas and Quiches 11,500 years ago. Although the first part of his thesis is incorrect, Madame Blavatsky says the Mayas were coeval with Plato’s Atlantis. Did they come from Atlantis? Although not allowing so long a residence here — a fact which might reverse their conclusions — Spence and many others believe Maya civilization did not develop on American soil, but that the people came with a full-blown culture, a mature art, architecture and religion, and a system of writing passing from the hieroglyphic into the phonetic stage. The cradle of the race seems to have been along the head waters of the Usumacinta river and the Rio Grande in Guatemala and in that part of Chiapas which slopes down from the steep Cordilleras. One tradition refers both to an eastern and a western immigration; the eastern under Itzamna, whose people founded, among other cities, the famous Chi-chen Itza which preserves the memory of their rule. A curious reminder of Atlantis is found in the statue of the “Choc-Mool,” the sandals upon whose feet are exact representations of those found on the feet of the Guanches of the Canary Islands. The western immigration was under the leadership of Quetzalcoatl, considered as both god and man, the first ruler of the Toltecs, and ruler in Maya centers as well.

The origin of the Toltecs is variously given. Some identify them with the populations in Guatemala and also in Yucatan, whither the Mayas later removed, from which it has been inferred that the Mayas and the Toltecs were one people. Ixtlilchochitl, a native chronicler, represents them as coasting down Lower California and Mexico, arriving at a place called Tlapallan in 378 A.D. Turning inland they finally settled on the site of the modern Tula and built Tollan, the city from which they took their name. Here they erected temples and palaces, the walls of which were incrusted with rare red and black stones. Some think this is reminiscent of Atlantean architecture in which white, red and black stones were decoratively combined, and that Tlapallan — the traditional home of Quetzalcoatl, the “land of black and red stones,” generally translated “the land of writing” because the Mayas used both red and black inks — was in Atlantis. According to the son of the last king of the Quiches, the Toltecs are descendants of the Israelites who, after crossing the Red Sea and separating from their companions, under the guidance of a chief named Tanub, set out wandering from one continent to another until they came at last to a place named Seven Caverns, in Mexico, and founded Tula. A famous Toltecan king bore the biblical appellation of Balam Acan; the first name being preeminently Chaldean. Besides the striking similarity between the language of the Aztecs and Hebrew, many of the figures on the bas-reliefs of Palenque and the idols in terra cotta exhumed in Santa Cruz del Quiche have head-gear similar to the phylacteries worn by the Pharisees of old and even by the Jews of Poland and Russia today. H.P.B. says the time will undoubtedly come when some of the people in these countries will be traced back to the Phoenicians and the Jews. That various migrating tribes met to form a heterogeneous population prior to and after the first millennium before Christ — a reasonably assumed historical date — is without a shadow of doubt.

A book in the language of the Quiches of Guatemala, said to have been written by Votan, a local name for Quetzalcoatl, was at one time in the possession of the Bishop of Chiapas, who introduced portions of it into his own work. In this book Votan declares that at the express command of the Lord he came to the New World to apportion the land among seven families which he brought with him. Leaving the land of Valum Chivim, he passed the dwelling of Thirteen Snakes and arrived in Valum Votan, where he founded the great city of Nachan (City of Snakes) thought to be none other than Palenque. From a date found on a stela at Palenque, it appears to have been founded in 15 B.C.; however, it may have been built on the site of an older city. Votan made four trips to the East and on one occasion is said to have visited King Solomon, to whom he gave valuable particulars about the mysterious continent, but no clue as to how it might be reached. In narrating his expedition, Votan describes a subterranean passage which terminated at the “root of heaven,” adding that it was a “snake’s hole,” and that he was admitted to it because he was a “son of the snakes,” that is, an Initiate. (See Isis Unveiled, Vol. I, 545-554). Upon his return he built a temple by the Huehuetan river, known from its underground chambers as “The House of Darkness.” The Bishop says that “to this day there is always a clan in the city of Teopesa which call themselves Votans. It is related that he tarried in Huehueta and that there he placed a tapir and a great treasure in a subterranean house, which he built by the breath of his nostrils, and he appointed a woman as chieftain, with tapianes to guard her. This treasure consisted of jars which were closed with covers of the same clay, and of a room in which the pictures of the ancient heathens who are in the calendar were engraved in stone, together with the chalchiuites (small green stones) and other superstitious images; and the chieftainess and the tapianes, her guardians, surrendered all these things which were publicly burned in the market place at Huehueta when we inspected the aforesaid province in 1691.” Quetzalcoatl is always represented with the nose of the tapir, the title (tapianes) also of the guardians of the treasure. It is perfectly clear that a line of Votans, priests of Quetzalcoatl who took his name, existed for hundreds, perhaps for thousands of years. Many and various are the legends of the Feathered-Serpent. He is the son of a virgin, sent into the world to save mankind; connected also with earthquake, deluge and wind. The Lord of the Wind, Tonacatecutli, when it seemed good to him, breathed and created Quetzalcoatl. He is also the son of “the Very Old One,” Citinatonali, creator of heaven and earth and mankind — the “dragon” from which the earth was made when it rose out of the sea.

Although there is hardly a single cultural or social custom whose origin was not referred to Quetzalcoatl, he is to be especially remembered in connection with the planet Venus, the Maya calendar and Maya writing. According to one legend, his mission completed, he departed eastward, and on reaching the sea put off his feather dress and turquoise snake-mask and immolated himself upon a funeral pyre, his heart becoming the planet Venus. As god of the morning star, he bore the calendrical name of Ce Acatl, one of the dates marking the periodical return of Venus. Dr. Spinden, of Harvard, states that the first definite date in the history of the New World is Aug. 6, 613 B.C., when the Mayas began to give each day its consecutive number, and that the Venus calendar was put in final working order between two risings of Venus as morning star in conjunction with the summer solstices of 538 B.C. and 530 B.C., and he believes Quetzalcoatl was made god of the morning star for solving a problem in astronomy. At all events, the Maya adepts were astronomers and the round towers were probably their observatories. In the Dresden Codex are computations involving about 34,000 years, and 405 revolutions of the moon are set down. Writing was supposed to be the joint production of Quetzalcoatl and two very old gods — might we not suppose of Atlantean origin? Bishop Landa, after having destroyed nearly all the manuscripts, was struck with a late compunction of conscience and endeavored to get all possible knowledge regarding Maya writing from the scribes, who in the main misinformed him. About one-third of the hieroglyphs have been deciphered by the help of the Books of Chilan Balam, transcripts of more ancient works in the Maya tongue but in Spanish characters, made by some of the educated natives after the Conquest. Dr. Morley has contributed to the National Geographic, of February, 1922, a most valuable article on Maya writing, with illustrations which include a reproduction of the tablet from the Temple of the Cross at Palenque and an initiation ceremony in which the tongue of the neophyte is being pierced with a spiked rope — indicative, we may think, of the silence and secrecy imposed upon the Adept. An interest in the art forms of these “Greeks of America,” as they have aptly been called, might well be stimulated, and signs are not wanting that in the future development of American art, these native and unique designs will be reproduced and expanded.

Quetzalcoatl carried a wand resembling the rod of Moses, by which the latter lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, and representations of the lifting up of serpents frequently occur in Mexican paintings. To his care also was confided the Holy Envelope, concealing the divinity from human gaze, from which he alone received the instructions for the guidance of his people. The reign of Quetzalcoatl was the golden age of the Toltecs. Maize was plentiful and cotton grew in all colors, needing not to be dyed. But this blissful state could not forever endure. He is said to have excited the envy of Tezcatlipoca, who presented himself in the guise of physician to the Fair God, supposed to be ailing, and gave him a beverage which it was claimed would restore him to health and prepare him for the long journey decreed by fate. The departure of Quetzalcoatl marks the downfall of the Toltecs before the rising tide of the warlike Aztecs, hastened, too, by the increasing practice of human sacrifice, which Quetzalcoatl endeavored in vain to suppress, urging the substitution of fruit or flowers or treasured possession, and the sacrifice of themselves, not others.

Sir James Fraser has shown that upon the physical vigor of ancient kings was thought to depend the success of the community in agriculture, and that failure of crops implied the sacrifice of the impotent monarch or his rejuvenation by a magic elixir. Tezcatlipoca is recorded as saying to Quetzalcoatl that in Tillan Tlapallan “another old man awaits thee; you shall speak together and return as a youth, yea, even as a boy.” It is evident that the Adepts of Quetzalcoatl made periodical journeys to the East, and were in touch with the Great Lodge whose members possess the secret of the real Elixir of Life, the exoteric interpretation of which led so many adventurers, like Ponce de Leon, to seek for an earthly Fountain of Youth. In later times Cholula was the great center of the worship of Quetzalcoatl, and his great pyramid there, covering over forty-five acres, was regarded with particular veneration, even by the Aztec conquerors. The Aztecs were late comers to Mexico, arriving there about the 8th century of our era, though not settling in the plateau of Mexico until the 13th, when they founded Tenochtitlan, the site of the present Mexican capital. They had many traditions of having dwelt “on a great water,” in a region called Aztlan, and of coming here in four tribes.

Of the Mexican pantheon of thirteen gods, the chief was Tezcatlipoca, corresponding to Jupiter, worshipped by all the Nahua (Mexican) tribes. His special symbol was a fiery mirror, in which he saw all that occurred on earth, for one of his functions was to distribute rewards and punishments. He is often shown with bandaged eyes. Uitzilopochtli was the god of war, whom his mother conceived from a ball of down which fell from heaven upon her bosom. She was the great earth goddess, whose skirt was woven of serpents, indicated by her name, Coatlicue. Tlaloc was the god of rain, to whom in periods of drought were sacrificed the most beautiful maidens in the City of the Sacred Well, discovered by Edward Thompson. This gentleman’s haunting memories finally impelling him to buy a large tract of land including the well and returning to Chi-chen Itza to live, is an interesting evidence in favor of reincarnation. Xiuhtecuhtli, the Lord of Fire, of exceedingly ancient origin, was the fire existing even before the sun or moon. He dwelt in the navel of the earth where volcanic fires have their origin and also above in a kind of cloud castle. He is called “He who entereth the blue stone pyramid.” “The ancient God, the Father and Mother of all Gods,” runs an Aztec prayer, “is the God of Fire, which is in the center of the court with four walls, and which is covered with gleaming feathers like unto wings.” In the great temple of Mexico City the inextinguishable fire was kept burning at the time of the Conquest. It is said that when all was dark, Tezcatlipoca transformed himself into the sun to give light to men. After the destruction of this sun, Quetzalcoatl became the second sun; Tlaloc, the third; and Quetzalcoatl’s wife, the fourth. The present sun, Tonatiuh, is destined to conclude with an earthquake. Once created, the sun had to have nourishment and various gods sacrificed themselves that he might obtain sustenance from their hearts and blood. Prof. Joyce maintains that war in Mexico was mainly of a ceremonial nature, undertaken for the purpose of obtaining prisoners for sacrifice to sustain the sun, and not primarily with the intention of inflicting mortal injury upon the foe. He says that rites which in appearance were crude and savage bore for them a symbolical meaning which transformed, if it did not excuse, their barbarity. When we consider the thousands daily sacrificed in the temples at the time of the Conquest, it is clear that the idea of sacrifice had been horribly perverted and was the great karmic cause of their overthrow. Death by sacrifice was considered the normal ending of the warrior and ensured for him entrance into the paradise of the sun; neither was death greatly feared, for it was but little more than an incident in the continuity between this life and the next. The recurring periods of Venus were connected with the return of the reincarnating Egos. This planet, like the Egyptian Osiris, is represented as a mummy, and the Mexicans held a kind of Feast of All Souls, at which the people danced around a mummy hoisted on the top of a pole.

Mictlan (Kama-loka) the underworld and home of Mictlanteculi, consisted of nine spheres, above which were the thirteen heavens. Tlalocan was the Mexican Devachan (apparently one of the thirteen divisions) where the dead enjoyed a temporary period of bliss. Those dying of old age had a difficult four-year journey before reaching the river of Hades, to swim across which the aid of a red dog was needed. Children were admitted to a special paradise where they flitted from flower to flower in the form of humming birds. The Codex Vaticanus A bears so close a resemblance to the Egyptian Pert-Em-Hru that it has been called “The Mexican Book of the Dead.” In its pages the corpse is depicted as dressed for burial, the soul, like the Egyptian Ba, escaping from the mouth. The deceased is ushered into the presence of Tezcatlipoca by a priest in an ocelot skin, just as the Egyptian was brought before Osiris, and stands naked with a wooden yoke about his neck to receive judgment. He then has to undergo the tests which precede entrance to the abode of the dead.

The Mexicans had a perfect calendar system, but instead of adding one day in four years, as we do, they added thirteen days every fifty-two years. At midnight of the closing cycle, determined by observation of the Pleiades, the high priest kindled the new fire, at which representatives from the surrounding cities lighted their torches; these were rapidly carried to the chief temple in each city, and from the temples the new fire was taken into the homes. Old garments were discarded, old household utensils broken, and there was general rejoicing because of the deliverance of the world from destruction. The memory of a great cataclysm seemed ever present and fear lest at the close of one of the fifty-two year cycles the earth might once more come to an end. In their flood legend, Tezcatlipoca had warned Nata and his wife Nana of the approaching deluge and commanded them to hollow out a cypress tree and enter it. “And this year was that of Cecalli, and on the first day all was lost.”

The American pyramids are terraced mounds of earth, cased on the outside with stone or cement, the whole serving as a substructure for the temple on top, reached by a stairway on one or more of its sides. In the chief cities were pyramids both to the sun and the moon, and some recognition of other planets and of the Pleiades, frequent reference to which points to a memory of the destruction of Atlantis, with which this group of stars is particularly associated. The pyramid of the sun at Teotihuacan is very similar in interior arrangement to the great pyramid of Cheops. The seven-terraced pyramid at Papantlan has three stairways leading to the top, the steps of which are decorated with hieroglyphical sculptures and 318 small niches. 318 is the Gnostic number of Christ and the famous number of the servants of Abraham. The beautiful temple at Mitla had extensive subterranean chambers, as most temples undoubtedly had. Many of these are still in use as proved by Gregory Mason’s account of a recent expedition to Yucatan. He and Dr. Spinden were very anxious to visit two cities where they had heard of temples but were firmly refused permission to go because they were being used. The Mexican general told them that their visit to the Subterranean chambers at Muyil was particularly disliked but, casting a covetous eye on his double-barrelled shotgun said, “Perhaps if you come back next year, I can let you see the cities you ask for.” Mason plans to return with an automatic shotgun. He might do well to read what H.P.B. has to say of the “Phantom City.” A native priest told her that when he was a young man he climbed up some ten or twelve thousand feet where he overlooked a plain extending toward Yucatan and the Gulf of Mexico and saw a great city with turrets white and glittering in the sun. It is said that the people there speak the Maya language and will murder any white man who attempts to enter their territory. It is barely possible that messengers go to and from this mysterious city and help to keep alive something of the ancient faith among a subject people, who still have their secret meeting places and perform simple rites by which the power of the sun and of Montezuma is recognized, as well as the power of the Feathered-Serpent, to whom, by order of Montezuma, they are to look for life.

THEOSOPHY, Vol. 16, No. 2, December, 1927, Pages 70-76

The Popol Vuh

The Popol Vuh was composed by a native of Guatemala in the 17th century from traditions handed down by the priests of the Feathered-Serpent, and translated from the Quiche (a dialect of Maya) into Spanish by Francisco Ximenez. This work attracted the attention of the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg, who in turn translated it into French, and it is his rendition that writers of English have used as the basis of their studies.* Popol is the word for the assembly of the nobles and hence has sometimes been called The Book of the Holy Assembly, identical in title with one of the books of the Kabbalah. In the introduction to the original manuscript, however, the unknown author states that since the “Word of God” has been promulgated, hereafter during the cycle of Christianity, the Book of the Azure-green Veil is no longer to be seen, in which it could be clearly perceived that it had come from the further shore of the sea; which Book has been called “The Record of Human Existence in the Overshadowing World, and How Man Saw Light and Life.” It is divided into four parts, treating respectively of Creation, the Mysteries, Civilization, and the Priesthood. It introduces us at once to four creative gods, “sung and celebrated” under nine names, collectively called the Feathered-Serpent, making ten in all; and these are divided into two hosts, the solar and lunar, called twice great father of the sun and twice great mother of the moon.

* The best generally available condensed translation in English is found in Bancroft’s Native Races, Vol. III, p. 44.

Chapter one begins: “This is the First Book written of old, but the perception of it is hidden from him who looks with his eyes and who thinks with his brain. Marvellous is both its appearance, and its recital of the times in which was completed the formation of all that is in the heavens and on the earth, the making symmetrical and the quadrangulation of its signs, the measure of its angles, their alignment, and the establishment of parallels on the heavens and on the earth, at the four cardinal points.” It then proceeds to narrate how everything was in latency, and void was the immensity of space. All was immobility and silence, in the darkness, in the night; only the Creator, the Former, the Dominator, the Feathered-Serpent, they-who-engender, they-who-give-being, hovered over the water as a dawning light. They are enveloped in green and azure: that is why their name is Gucumatz (Feathered-Serpent). Of the greatest sages is their being. Then came his Word with the Dominator and the Feathered-Serpent; and they consulted together and meditated, and while they consulted, it became day. And at the moment of the dawn, MAN manifested himself,* while they, in the darkness and in the night, were holding counsel upon the production and growth of trees and creeping vines, of sentient beings and humanity, by him who is the Heart of the Heavens, whose name is Hurakan. Lightning is the first sign of Hurakan; the second, the path-of-the-lightning; the third is the thunderbolt. And these three are the Heart of the Heavens.

* From the beginning MAN works behind the scenes, laying the plans for those gradually evolving vehicles of the soul into which he may fully incarnate when they are perfected.

† Huraken (or Hurler), whence our word hurricane, is Jupiter. The Word calls into activity his three-fold electric fire.

Thus, of a truth, the Creation took place, and the Earth was spoken into being. “Earth!” cried they, and instantly it took form. Like a mist or cloud was its beginning. Then the mountains rose up out of the water. Only by a magical power could that be performed which had been meditated upon as to the shadowing forth of the mountains and valleys, and at the same time the cypress and the pine appeared. Then was the Gucumatz filled with joy, crying out: “Blessed be thy coming, O Hurakan! Our work and our labor has accomplished its end.” The earth then was covered with various forms of animal life. And the Creator and Former said to the animals: “Speak now our name!” But the animals could not speak as a man. Then said their Makers: “Our glory is not yet perfect, since ye cannot invoke us. Dens and food shall ye have, but as to your flesh, it shall be eaten. This is your destiny.”

Again there is counsel in heaven. “Let us try again; let us make them who are to be our vehicles and nourishers.” So the Creators determined to make man. Of red earth they moulded his flesh; but when they had made him, they saw it was not good. He was without coherence, strengthless, inept, watery; he had been endowed with speech, but he had no intelligence; and straightway he was consumed in the water without being able to stand upright.* Again the gods took counsel. It was decided to make man of the wood of the tzite cork-tree, and woman of the marrow of the zibac (willow); but the result was in no wise satisfactory — they were merely wooden mannikin. And these are the people who inhabit the surface of the earth. They existed and multiplied, but had neither heart nor intelligence, nor memory of their Creators. They led a useless life and lived like the animals. They were but an attempt at men. Because they had not directed their thoughts to the Heart of the Heavens, the face of the earth grew dark, and a dismal rain began to fall. Then came the nature sprites, big and little, and the animals that had formerly served them, to torment them; even their utensils took shape and voice to add to their misery. Then the men ran hither and thither in despair. They sought refuge upon the house-tops, but the houses crumbled beneath them; they tried to climb the trees, but the trees shook them down; they attempted to enter the caverns, but the caverns closed before them. Thus was accomplished the destruction of these creatures, save a few of their descendants who now exist in the woods as little apes.§

* See Secret Doctrine, I, p. 345.

† In the Norse mythology the first human pair are made from two kinds of wood, the ash and the alder, one strong, the other pliant. Zibac (sibac) means “egg” in the mystery language of the initiation caves, hence the reference is to the egg-born, produced by the power (Kriyasakti) of the holy sages of the early Third Race.

‡ Evidently the description of an earthquake.

§ The apes are here shown to be descendants of “the Mindless.”

Now there existed upon the earth a race of Titans, the first of whom was Vukub-cakix (Seven-macaws) by name.* He was surpassingly vain and boasted that he was the sun and the moon, although as yet were not revealed the sun, the moon nor the stars. He was finally overcome by extracting his emerald teeth and substituting therefor grains of maize, during which operation his eyeball was injured. His two sons, who created mountains and caused earthquakes, were also disposed of, thus bringing to an end this insolent brood.

* The macaw is the small parrot-eagle found sculptured on many monoliths and temples in Central and South America. It was the symbol of the sun and is still our national emblem. Note the number 7 in this and following names.

† The substitution of the maize suggests the institution of agriculture in place of lawless Titanic rule or brute force. Connote the Greek Titan, Polyphemus, whose single eye was put out by Odysseus.

The second part of the Popol Vuh deals with the trials of initiation. The Father and Mother of Life had two children, each of whom were named Ahpu (air-gun):* Hunhun-Ahpu (Two-fold master of air-gun) and Vukub-hunahpu (Seven-fold master of air-gun), who was a celibate. Now these two practised ball-playing every day, and on a time approaching the vicinity of Xibalba (the Underworld), so disturbed the rulers of that abode that they inquired who it was that was making such a commotion over their heads. Thereupon they all took counsel together and challenged the young devotees to a game of ball in their realm, with the intention of vanquishing them. The youths having crossed a stream of boiling water, a river of blood and a third stream in safety, came to a place where four roads met. Here they took the wrong road and soon found themselves in the hall of Xibalba. Here they saw two seated figures which they saluted, only to find they were dummy kings. They were next invited to sit on the seat of honor, which turned out to be an incandescent stone that burned them. They were then conducted to the House of Shadows. Now the trials of Xibalba were of divers kinds. Besides the House of Shadows, was the House of Cold, the House of Tigers, the House of Bats, and the House of Spears. These the youths did not enter, and, having failed in their earlier tests, they were promptly sacrificed, the head of Hunhun-Ahpu being suspended in the midst of a calabash tree, which immediately covered itself with fruit. The Xibalbians forbade any one to come near the tree, but a young princess, Xquiq, hearing the tale of the tree, desired to taste its fruit and, approaching it, was impregnated by the dead head’s saliva.§ The twin heroes born to her were Hunahpu and Xbalanque, whose magical powers were evidenced from childhood. In due course of time they were also challenged to meet the trials of Xibalba. Before setting out, each one planted a cane in the interior of their grandmother’s house: if it dried out, it was to be the sign of their death, but if it blossomed, they were alive. With divine assistance the brothers passed all the tests successfully, even going so far as to voluntarily immolate themselves on a funeral pyre. After three days, however, their ashes assumed the shape of men-fishes which later became two beautiful youths, in which their former traits manifested themselves again. As magicians they entertained the lords of Xibalba with phenomena which the latter insisted be tried on them and by which they met their death — the brothers taking care not to resurrect them and thereafter reigning in their stead.

* The air-gun of sarbacan was a hollow cane or reed in which was placed the weapon, a stone, knife or arrow, expelled by the force of the breath.

† Ball-playing, a kind of tennis, was a religious exercise taught by the priests and practised only by the nobles in halls consecrated by prayer. In the Popol Vuh the game is evidently a symbol or veil for psycho-spiritual action taking place in the human organism during occult training.

‡ Xibalba, the Land of Shadows, is thought by some to stand for Atlantis. Although the names of its ten princes and dummy kings correspond in a general way to the ten princes and King-pair of Plato’s Atlantis, it also symbolizes the lower astral nature, which has to be overcome. So like the Egyptian mystic initiations are those of the Popol Vuh that Brasseur de Bourbourg thought it must have plagiarized them. The various houses mentioned are similar to those in the visions of Enoch, described in the apocryphal book of that name.

§ Compare Eve’s eating of the forbidden fruit. By analogy also, the dead head may stand for a pralaya in which are stored the life-energies for a new manifestation and a new race of men.

The third part of the Popol Vuh continues the story of creation: Once more the gods commune together and the Creator and Former made four perfect men* — wholly of yellow and white maize was their flesh composed. The name of the first was Balam-Quitze; of the second, Balam-Agab; of the third, Mahucutah; of the fourth, Iqi-Balam. They had neither father nor mother, neither were they made by the ordinary agents in the work of creation, but their coming into existence was a miracle extraordinary, wrought by the special intervention of the Creator. Verily, at last, did the gods look on beings who were worthy of their origin. Grand of countenance and broad of limb, the four sires of our race stood up and looked. And their great clear eyes swept rapidly over all, for they saw all things, both great and small, in heaven and on earth.§ But this was not pleasing to the gods — heaven had overshot the mark. “What shall we do with man now?” said they. “These are as gods; they would make themselves equal with us; lo, they know all things.ǂ Let us now contract their sight.” Thereupon the Heart of the Heavens breathed a cloud over the pupil of the eyes of the men, and a veil came over it as when one breathes on the face of a mirror; thus was the globe of the eye darkened; neither was that which was far off clear to it any more, but only that which was near.ǁ

* The four men typify four races.

† Yellow was the color of the first solid race. It was the golden yellow of the Fourth also which became black with sin. See Ocean of Theosophy, p. 68, for food in connection with reincarnation.

‡ Balam-Quitze means Tiger-with-the-sweet-smile; Balam-Agab, Tiger-of-the-night; Mahucutah, the distinguished name; Iqi-Balam, Tiger-of-the-moon.

§ See Secret Doctrine, II, 96; 221.

ǂ The gods who evolve man’s form are lower than ourselves, called in the Secret Doctrine the lunar ancestors, or pitris. Hence when they see man endowed with mind, they are displeased, just as the Lord God of the Old Testament is. (Genesis III, 22.)

ǁ The Atlanteans lost their spiritual vision and the “third eye” became atrophied.

Then the four men slept and four women were made,* and these became the ancestors of the various branches of the Quiche race. At first the tribes lived happily under the bright and morning star, precursor of the yet unseen sun. They had as yet no worship, save the breathing of the instinct of their souls, as yet no altars to the gods; only they gazed up into heaven, not knowing what they had come so far to do! They were filled with love and obedience, and lifting their eyes toward heaven, they thus invoked the Deity: “Give us to walk always in an open road, in a path without snares; to lead happy, quiet, and peaceable lives, free of all reproach.” So they lived in joy, the black men and the white together, and they had but one language. There they lived awaiting the rising of the sun; but no sun came, and the four men and their descendants grew uneasy. “We have no person to watch over us,” they said, “nothing to guard our symbols.” So the four men and their people set out for Tulan-Zuiva, otherwise called the Seven Caves,§ and there they received gods, each man as head of a family, a god.ǂ Balam-Quitze received the god Tohil; Balam-Agab, the god Avilix; and Mahucutah, the god Hacavitz — all very powerful gods, but Tohil, the creator of fire, was the god of the whole Quiche nation. The tribes of Tamub and Ilocab likewise received gods at the same time. Here also the language of all the families was confused, so that no one of the first four men could any longer understand the speech of another.ǁ Therefore they decided to leave Tulan; some went eastwards and some came this way. And their hearts grieved, for long was the way and many of them were left on the road. Nevertheless they passed to this side as if there had been no sea; for they passed on scattered stones, and they called the place “Arranged stones and torn sands,” a name which was given them in their passage in the inside of the sea.**

* Compare the creation of Eve in Genesis.

† See Ocean of Theosophy, p. 60 for the purpose of man in evolution.

Secret Doctrine, I, 210 — the origin of devotion.

§ The Seven Caves stand for seven centers or zones on which the seven primitive groups of the first root race were born. Here they would seem also to refer to man’s seven principles. Tulan is spoken of as “the common cradle of our race;” there is one in the East, one in the West, one in Xibalba, and one “where God is.”

ǂ The receiving of gods suggests the incarnation of the three higher principles in man. The four ancestors are said to have watched the star of the morning, precursor of the yet unseen sun. In a general way the sun implies a condition of the human race — when it shall be illumined by Manas. The Sons of Mind are said to have come from Venus (the star of the morning); but not all the human animal forms received the full light of mind. Some received only a spark, some were merely overshadowed by it; so, with the majority of the Quiches — it was in the beginning “verily, not at all the same sun as that of today,” that is, when Manas had become more fully incarnated in the race. The god of the fourth man is not taken into account, since he had no family; there were only three divisions of the Quiches.

ǁ Compare the story of the confusion of tongues at the building of the Tower of Babel, in the Old Testament.

** This suggests a migration from Atlantis. Compare the Old Testament story of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt.

Afterwards, on account of the rain and hail, there was no more of the fire that made itself for the four men. Then Tohil created fire for them by stamping with his sandal. Also had the fire of the tribes gone out and they were perishing of the cold, but when they came to the patriarchs and asked for fire, they were not well received. Then appeared before them a messenger from Xibalba, who spoke to them in this wise: “Give no more fire to the tribes until they have given to Tohil. Wherefore ask Tohil what he shall require for the fire.” And straightway he disappeared without, however, ceasing to exist. Then word went forth from Tohil that the tribes should learn to renew the fire by sacrifice.* Nevertheless, one band stole the fire in the smoke, and straightway their majesty and wisdom, hitherto in them in obscurity, came to them at Tulan.

* There is a resemblance between Tohil’s demand and that of the third chapter of the Gita: “With this nourish the gods, that the Gods may nourish you,” etc. Most translators think the demand was for human sacrifice, an interpretation possibly supported by subsequent events; but when human sacrifice was practised, the gods were hidden.

The band who stole the fire recalls the story of Prometheus.

Now about this time the three gods spoke to the four men: “Lo, dawn already approaches, now we must rise up; let us not stay here; carry us into some secret place.” Thereupon the gods were hidden;* Tohil and Avilix in deep ravines of the forest, but Hacavitz was established on a great pyramid, and Hacavitz is the name of the mountain to this day. At last the sun commenced to advance and there was great rejoicing. The dawn enlightened all the nations at the same time. Yet was not the sun then in the beginning the same as now; his heat wanted force, and he was but as a reflection in a mirror — verily, not at all the same sun as that of today. Nevertheless he dried up and warmed the surface of the earth, and answered many good ends. Another wonder when the sun arose! The three tribal gods, Tohil, Avilix and Hacavitz, were turned into stone, as were also the gods connected with the lion, the tiger, the viper, and other fierce and dangerous animals. Perhaps we should not be alive at this moment — because of the voracity of these fierce animals — had not the sun caused this petrifaction. And the people multiplied on Mount Hacavitz, and here they built their city. It is here also that they began to sing their song, called Kamucu (we see). And this is what they said in singing: “Alas! we ruined ourselves in Tulan, there lost many of our kith and kin, they still remain there, left behind! We indeed have seen the sun, but they — now that his golden light begins to appear, where are they?”

* The hiding of the gods may have several meanings. At least we see that the time comes when the Divine Beings withdraw from the world. Furthermore, in the course of civilization, which becomes ever more material, men forget the god within (Atma-Buddhi-Manas) and look for an external god to worship; and as their hearts become more stony, so do they worship idols of stone. Later on in the book the hidden gods, invoked by means of various practices, make known their presence by animating the stones.

† This refers undoubtedly to the gradual condensation of all forms of life, from the astral or semi-physical — symbolized by the rain and the cold — to the solid state, during which process the animal forms dwindled in size and so ceased to be a menace to man.

The early portion of the fourth part of the Popol Vuh tells how the four patriarchs withdrew from association with their fellows, but were occasionally seen, together with the gods, in the mountains and forests; human sacrifice began to be secretly practised and strife with the other tribes began. First the tribes tried to entrap the three gods, failing in which they organized an armed effort, which was repulsed by the letting loose of numberless bees and arrows, so that they were finally reduced to submission. Now it came to pass that the life of the four men was drawing to a close. No bodily sickness nor suffering came upon them, but they were informed that their death was near. Then they called their wives and their sons around them to receive their last commands and in the anguish of their hearts they sang the sad song, Kamucu, the same they had sung when first the sun rose. Then instantly the four old men were not, but in their place was a great bundle; and it was never unfolded, neither could any man find seam therein upon rolling it over and over. Therefore was it called “The Majesty Enveloped;”* and it became a memorial of these fathers, and was held very dear and precious in the sight of the Quiches and incense was burned before it. Thus disappeared on Mount Hacavitz the first men, who came from the East, from the other side of the sea. Long time had they been here when they died; and they were very old, and surnamed The Venerated and The Sacrificers.

* The passing of the four old men suggests the disappearance of Enoch (Genesis, V, 24). Enoch is the term used for a “seer,” and his sudden taking away symbolizes the disappearance among men of the sacred and secret knowledge, called in the Popol Vuh “the Majesty Enveloped.”

After the death of the old men, their sons, in conformity to the recommendation of their fathers, passed over the sea. And when they arrived in the East before the lord Nacxit,* the name of the great lord, whose power was boundless, he conceded them the sign of royalty and all that it represents. The remainder of the book is concerned with the history of the various tribes and an account of the great Adept-King Gucumatz, who ascended every seven days into heaven, every seven days into Xibalba and every seven days put on the nature of the serpent and verily became serpent. The narrative ends with an account of the building of the great White Temple in which was preserved a square black divining stone, and the organization of the priesthood.

* Nacxit was a name for Quetzalcoatl. Some commentators think “the East” refers to Atlantis, others, to the eastern part of Central America.

† The name of the stone and the temple in which it was preserved was Caabaha, meaning House of Sacrifice. The striking similarity between this name and the Mohammedan sacred stone, Kaaba, meaning square or cube, is what first revealed to Brasseur de Bourbourg the astonishing parallelisms to other religious systems found in the Popol Vuh.

THEOSOPHY, Vol. 16, No. 3, January, 1928, Pages 113-120

On American Civilizations from Universal Brotherhood Magazine


Since the earliest times of which we have any historical knowledge, the emblem of the serpent has always been used as a symbol of occult knowledge and wisdom.

Every country has had its great teacher, its Christ. In every religion and scripture we find traces of the worship of the Serpent or Dragon. Thus in Egypt it was the especial symbol of Thot and Hermes. In India we have the Nagas or Serpent Worshippers. In Mexico, the Nargals. It is reverenced by the Pa of China, by the Voodoos of Jamaica, in Jan-Cambodia and Africa, while to come to the records Druids over in England, we find them saying: “I am a Druid, I am a Serpent.” It is a symbol everywhere meaning wisdom. The various names in different countries signify “the being who excels in excellence,” or “He who sees and watches.” (Greek.)

These beings to whom has been given the name “Dragons” of wisdom, were the first teachers of mankind. As humanity arose from the darkness of the lower kingdoms they revealed the knowledge of its true nature. In the course of time they ruled as Divine Kings — this was the time of the golden age, when justice and wisdom were realities, not mere names — it was the time of peace on earth.

Later on they re-appeared as sages and instructors, and finally sacrificed themselves to be re-born under various circumstances, for the good of mankind, and for its salvation, at critical periods. Thus every nation had and still has its Serpent-Teacher, its Watcher, its Christ, so that in no part of the world is man left long in darkness and ignorance. For when such circumstances occur, some great teacher is sent forth to re-kindle in men’s hearts the ancient religion of wisdom, to bring health and enlightenment.

Let us for a little while direct our attention to Mexico, for there Quetzalcoatl, one of those world teachers, lived and worked in the ages gone by. His teachings had far-reaching effects and their light shone out with intense brightness into one of the blackest periods of American history.

In the Popol-Vuh we read:

“This is the recital of how everything was without life, calm and silent, all was quiet and motionless; void was the immensity of the heavens; the face of the earth did not manifest itself yet; only the tranquil sea was and the space of the heavens. All was immobility and silence in the night.

“Only the Creator, the Maker, the Dominator, the Serpent covered with feathers, they who engender, they who create, were on the waters as an ever-increasing light; they are surrounded by green and blue.”

In another manuscript we find that “rays of light gathered themselves together on the water about the feathered serpents and the rays were green and blue.”

Thus the name of the feathered serpent, Quetzalcoatl, was applied in the first place to the creative force of the Universe, also to those who appeared in the course of time, bringing with them from the waters of the Unknown, the light of knowledge and spiritual wisdom. These various ways of applying the name Quetzalcoatl gave rise to much confusion and error, since the term was later applied almost solely to the Initiate Votan, who became the Quetzalcoatl of history, though probably he was but the last of a long race of teachers. Like all the other saviours of the world, Quetzalcoatl is said to have been born of a virgin. At his birth were many signs and wonders, the earth put forth flowers and fruit of its own accord, as though to greet the new teacher. Many things were foretold of him, among others, that he would become the spiritual ruler of the world.

We hear of him later, penetrating the country of Anahuac, with a large band of followers. He established his capital at Tulla, which became the northern focus of civilization. Under his sceptre men lived in great happiness and enjoyed abundance of everything. He taught the people agriculture, the use of metals, the art of cutting stone, the means of fixing the calendar; also, it is said to him is due the invention of hieroglyphs and picture writing, which arranged after a certain method, reproduced the history on skins and parchment. The alphabet of the Egyptians is almost identical with that of these ancient Mexicans, only that the latter is more rich in symbols expressing shades of meaning, which would be natural to the mother language if, as there seems some reason to believe, the Egyptian civilization, was derived from the Mexican. According to some writers we are told that all the country with its flocks and mines, belonged to the King and that on the marriage of two people, sufficient land was given them, for their maintenance which was added to on the arrival of children. No one might own the flocks which roamed over the country side, but once a year the animals were shorn, and the wool given out equally to the people. The mines also belonged to the King, and their products were through him distributed equally — hence no one could be richer in material goods than the others — all shared alike as members of one great family; if people were sick or old, the others did their work before touching their own. Besides bringing about these good social conditions, Quetzalcoatl taught his people a more spiritualized religion, in which the only sacrifices were the fruits and flowers of the season, and the consecration of self to the highest good.

But this reign of peace at Tulla was destined to be brought to a close, for Quetzalcoatl had an enemy in Tezcatlipoca, a magician, cunning and clever enough to get the better of the gentle Quetzalcoatl on many occasions. This magician succeeded by his enchantments in destroying the rule of peace and forced Quetzalcoatl to become a wanderer. He then pursued him to Cholula, afterwards the sacred city of the Toltecs, where Quetzalcoatl reigned for twenty years, bringing to this city, as to Tula, prosperity and greater spirituality. Cholula became the sacred city of Anahuac, the Mecca, the Jerusalem, the Rome of the Indians. The sanctity of the place brought pilgrims from the furthest corners of Mayax, as the country was then called, to hear the words of Quetzalcoatl. Finally, as the story runs, Tezcatlipoca forced him to quit the country altogether, and he embarked for the East, at a place not far from where Vera Cruz now stands, near to the very spot where Cortez afterwards disembarked. Before his departure he bade his followers keep fast his teachings, and promised them that he would in the distant future return to reign over them once more, and their country should again become a centre of light to the nations.

This expectation of Quetzalcoatl’s return furnishes a kind of parallel to the Messianic hope, or more closely to the early Christian expectation of the second coming of Christ, for when he returned, it would be to punish the oppressors and the tyrants, and to bring justice to the people. And that is why, later on the Aztecs, after their occupation of the country, dreaded his return, and why they had not dared to prescribe his cultus, but on the contrary recognized it, and carried it on. And if you would know the real secret of the success of Cortez in his wild enterprise — for after all, the Mexican sovereign could easily have crushed him and his handful of men — you will find it in the fact that Montezuma, whose conscience was oppressed with more crimes than one, had a very lively dread of Quetzalcoatl’s return, and when he was informed that at the very point where the dreaded god had embarked to disappear in the unknown East, strange and terrible beings had landed, Montezuma could not doubt that it was Quetzalcoatl returning and accordingly sent to make peace with Cortez.

Besides Quetzalcoatl, Votan is worshipped under many names. “Hurabran,” “the breeze,” “Lord of the four winds,” and the most popular account of him is written under this last name.

He is lord of the winds and of that wind in particular that brings over the parched lands of Mexico the fertilizing showers, and this is why Tezcatlipoca, god of the cold, dry season, is his enemy. It is towards the end of the dry season that the fertilizing showers begin to fall on the Eastern shore.

The flying serpent then, the agent of transmission by which the solar and lunar influences are diffused, bringing life and abundance, is a benevolent deity spreading prosperity wherever he goes. But he does not always breathe over the land. Tezcatlipoca appears. The lofty plateaux of Tulla, and Cholula, are the first victims of his devastating force. Quetzalcoatl withdraws ever further and further to the East, and at last disappears in the great ocean; but will return again and will conquer Tezcatlipoca compelling him to water the earth.

This story is found also in other countries. In India it runs thus:

Indra, god of the wind, is continually at war with Vritra. In the Vedas, Vritra is referred to as the Demon of Drought, the terrible hot wind, Indra is shown to be constantly at war with him and with the help of his thunder and lightning, Indra compels him to pour down rain on the earth, and then destroys him.

In the “Secret Doctrine” we are told these “wars” refer partly to those terrible struggles in store for the candidate for Adeptship — struggles between himself and his human passions, when the enlightened Inner Man has either to slay them or fail. In the former case he became the dragon-slayer, as having happily overcome all temptations, and a serpent himself, having cast off his old skins, and being born in a new body; becoming an adept, a son of Wisdom.

The account of the teachings of Quetzalcoatl were written by his priesthood, which in spite of opposition from many of the Aztecs, continued its silent work. The chief priests of the Mexican gods had authority, as a rule over state matters, but the chief priest of Quetzalcoatl had no nominal authority except over his own fraternity. He was called “Huiyatoo,” the “Great Sentinel” or “Watcher” — his real power was above the Kings.

No person who was of unclean thoughts and acts could be with him and live; from him healing currents flowed, and he was able to direct both temporal, and spiritual currents. The members of this fraternity were divided into three classes, of which I shall speak later, and had to submit to the strictest observances, but in compensation the people paid them almost divine honors, whilst their power and influence were boundless. During the time of the Aztec civilization, when every town was polluted with the awful abuse of human sacrifice, and every god was a Moloch calling out for more and more blood, until no man’s life was secure from receiving the summons of the god; the influence of the Brotherhood of Quetzalcoatl alone kept alive the hope of the people, and prevented them from forgetting their immortality and destiny. Leaving their retreats and temples, in their white robes, they moved about among the people, helping and cheering, a silent protest against the crimes of the black-robed priests of the Aztecs.

During the reign of Quetzalcoatl, the palaces and temples of Mitla and Palenque were built, and it was at the latter place that the Great Mysteries were performed. The temples are mostly built on pyramids consisting of five or seven steps, rivaling those of Egypt in size and grandeur. The entrance to the chief temple was formed by a great serpent’s mouth, open and showing its fangs, so that the Spaniards thought it represented the gate of hell. In this temple has been found an altar with this inscription, “To the Unknown God, the Cause of Causes.” From these pyramids are passages leading down for great distances underground, just as do those in Egypt, and Quetzalcoatl in narrating one of his expeditions, describes a subterranean passage, which ran on underground and terminated at the root of the heavens. He adds that this passage was a snake’s hole, and that he was admitted to it because he was himself a “Son of the Snakes.”

This is very suggestive, for his description of the snake’s hole, is that of the Egyptian crypt. There were numerous catacombs in Egypt and Chaldea, some of them of very vast extent. The most renowned of these are the subterranean crypts of Thebes and Memphis. The former beginning on the west side of the Nile extended to the Libyan desert, and were known as the Serpent’s holes. It was there that were performed the sacred mysteries, the “Unavoidable Cycle,” the unavoidable doom imposed upon every soul at bodily death, when it had been judged in the Amentian regions.

The mysteries among the Mexicans were performed in temples whose ground plan was an oblong square — this represented the Universe. Both the Egyptian and Mexican letters M signified the earth or universe, and were pictured as an oblong. The roofs were always triangular, symbolical of the triune God, the Ruling Spirit of the Universe. This kind of arch is also found in the ancient tombs of Chaldea, in the Great Pyramid of Egypt, in Greece and many other countries. The triangular arches appear as land marks of one and the same doctrine, practiced in remote times in India, Egypt, Greece, Chaldea, and Central America.

The building was divided into three parts, having no apparent connection with each other. The central was the largest and opened into the Sanctuary or Holy of Holies, built in the shape of a cross, with a double set of arms.

The mysteries were of two kinds — the greater and lesser, divided into many degrees. The candidate for initiation must be pure, his character without blemish; he was commanded to study such things as tended to purify the mind. It was exceedingly difficult to attain the right of initiation into the Greater Mysteries.

Very little definite knowledge of the old Mexican religion can be gained, for the Spaniards on their landing, took care to destroy as many of the religious documents, and monuments, as possible. Some, however, escaped, and from them we learn, that Quetzalcoatl taught of one Supreme God “La” so far above human thought that it was useless even to attempt to symbolize it. With this Absolute Deity was connected the sign of the cross, held so sacred, that it was rarely used, except as the ground plan, upon which to construct, the Holy of Holies, and also in the cross of Palenque. The Egyptians too reverenced a superior Deity “Ra” so far from their other gods, that they did not know how to worship it. Both “Ra” in the Egyptian, and “La” in the Mexican languages, mean the same thing, “that which has existed forever, the eternal truth.” As in Egypt we find the Supreme Being standing at the head of a Trinity composed of itself, so also in Mexico. There we are told, “all that exists is the work of Izahol” — who by his will caused the universe to spring into existence, and whose names are: “Bitol, the Maker,” “Alom, the Engenderer,” and “Qaholom,” he who gives being. Here again we see the same truth, taught under different names in the widely severed countries of America, Asia, and Egypt, one more proof that if only we can get below the surface and outward differences, there we shall find the same Truth, overlaid it may be by speculations, theories and doubts, but waiting until the time when man shall weary of his own imaginings, and shall be willing to become once more a learner at the feet of the wise — who have striven ever to follow the wisdom of Nature.

The Mexican and Egyptian representations of the Creation, are almost identical, one of the best picturings is said to be sculptured over the doorway of a temple ascribed to Quetzalcoatl. A luminous egg emitting rays is seen floating on the water where it had been deposited by the Supreme Intelligence. In this egg is seated the Creator, his body painted blue, his loins surrounded by a girdle; he holds a sceptre in his left hand, his head is adorned with a plume of feathers, he is surrounded by a Serpent, the symbol of the Universe. They represented the creative and intelligent power, as a man seated, alluding to his immutable essence, the upper part naked because it was said the Universe in its upper portion, the skies, is seen most revealed; clothed from the waist below, because the terrestrial things are most hidden from view. He holds a sceptre in his left hand because the heart is on that side, and the heart is the seat of the understanding that regulates all actions of men.

In Egypt the Creative power, “Kneph,” is similarly pictured as a man of blue color, with the girdle and sceptre, he also has a plume of feathers, and the serpent is near. Emblematically he was figured under the form of a serpent. Most of the stories told us in the Bible are found under a slightly different coloring, among the records of Mexican teachings — such for instance, as the story of the flood, and it is worth noting that in all countries where the name Maya occurs, we find similar accounts of Deluges, from all of which, certain holy people — thet Noahs of the countries, escaped. In their story of the Deluge, the Mexicans referred to the terrible destruction of the continent of Atlantis. The Egyptians also preserved records of the same catastrophe, and laughed at the Greek philosophers, when they spoke of an Universal Deluge, for how could it have been universal and have destroyed the whole human race, when they themselves remained to tell the tale. Again the story of Cain and Abel is found retold under the personalities of Coh and Aac. In India in a poem known as the Ramayana, Cain becomes Maya, and Abel, Bali; while in Egypt it is the story of Osiris slain through the jealousy of his brother, Set. From all antiquity and by all nations, the tree and serpent worship have been most closely connected, so that in a country like Mexico, where the symbol of the serpent was more widely spread than has yet been discovered in any other country, we shall naturally expect to see it figured. We read “the ancient Mexicans were taught to hold certain trees in reverence, for they were the symbols of eternal life,” and “they believed in the immortality of the soul that would be rewarded or punished in the life beyond for its deeds while in the body; each soul was supposed to mete out its own fate. Among other rewards was rest under the shade of the evergreen ceiba tree, which is found even to this day planted in the sacred spots of Yucatan and Central America.

The Cross is another sacred symbol reverenced by all nations ages before the establishment of Christianity. Among the earliest types known on the Eastern Continent is the “Crux Ansata.” It was the “symbol of all symbols,” among the Egyptians, the Phoenicians, and the Chaldeans, being the emblem of the life to come. It was placed on the breast of the deceased. It is also seen adorning the breasts of statues and statuettes in Palenque, Copan and other localities of Central America. In Mayax it was the symbol of rejuvenescence and freedom from suffering, and was placed on the breast of the Initiate after his new birth. It was their most sacred sign and was connected with the element, water and rain. It was also connected with the Southern cross which appears in the heavens at the end of the dry season, when death from want of water seems to threaten all creation. It is a messenger of good tidings, announcing that the longed-for rain will descend from on high and with it joy and happiness, new life to all creatures. It was the symbol of the creative power, that is eternally renovating and revivifying all things on the earth — thus as a symbol of the life to come and immortality. The cross found on statues is called the Tau, and Tau is a Maya word (ti = here, a= water, α= month). “This is the month for water, for the resurrection of nature for the life to come.”

These are a few of the ideas which have seemed to gather round the name of Quetzalcoatl. They are but additional landmarks emphasizing the fact that at the back of all religions we come across familiar pictures and symbols pointing out plainly that there is but one religion. Many teachers have come at different times; they have taught the fundamental truths, that all Life is one Life — that the spirit of man is immortal; an emanation from the One Life, and will in the future return to its source — and that each one manages his own affairs; is his own absolute law-giver. Great Ones have had to endure reproach, slander, misrepresentation, forgetfulness; all have worked steadily, earnestly, without desire of reward, they have given what they possessed of moral, spiritual, mental and vital strength for the uplifting of humanity.

The day will come, when awakened from their sleep, people will honor and cherish memory of those Great Souls who will descend from on high, and with it joy worked for them in the past, and will do all in their power to help on the work of those who are now among us working and fighting for the Liberation of Man.

— By Mildred Swannell, Universal Brotherhood – September 1899

On American Civilizations from Sunrise Magazine

Ciphers and Civilizations

Imagine, if you will, a people who had a complex written language that suffered no major changes for more than a thousand years; whose cultural development and intellectual sophistication allowed them to conceive of periods of earth history embracing ninety million years and more. Imagine that this nation employed a civil calendar more accurate than the present Gregorian reckoning, adopted by Europe in the sixteenth century to repair the glaring inaccuracies of the Julian calendar in effect since 46 BC. Add to these the construction of great and beautiful cities having connecting roads, development of the plastic arts to a pitch as fine as any in the world, and the existence of a highly moral citizenry governed by law and good customs. Finally, imagine that this nation’s thinkers employed the revolutionary mathematical concept of the zero or cipher — without which you can’t have a positional system — in their calendrics and astronomical computations.

Neither the classical Greek nor Roman civilizations ever developed the zero. Just try mathematical calculation using Roman numerals! We take the positional system for granted, failing to recall that the zero was adopted by Europe only in the fifteenth century. Now, applying our own standards, would it be an exaggeration to describe our supposed nation as eminently civilized? But, such a nation has indeed existed. It is known to scholars as that of the Maya of Central America, whose peoples are said to have flourished in the northern areas of that region from before 1000 BC to about 1000 AD . . . cont.

Ancient America

In a just published book, Before Columbus, Dr. Cyrus H. Gordon, head of the Department of Mediterranean Studies at Brandeis University, New York, has performed an important service to a growing number of scholars, both professional and amateur. These are scholars whose own reflections and investigations tell them that there is much more to the testimony of the mute megalithic and related archaeological records of the “pre-Columbian” New World than has yet been revealed — or for that matter been accepted even as a possibility by their more conservative and methodologically rigid colleagues. Professor Gordon’s main conclusion is that there must have flourished, at least as early as the Bronze Age, a great civilization of Sea People whose knowledge of astronomy and the arts of shipbuilding and navigation enabled them to ply all the oceans. They should not be considered, he feels, as tied to a particular land, because apparently they embraced several ethnic and linguistic elements from various areas. Not only did they devise our alphabet, but they were unquestionably associated with the Minoans and Phoenicians, as well as with the highly developed inhabitants of pre-Columbian America, thus playing a key role in the history of world civilization. . . . cont.

Where Did the ‘Americans’ Come From?

The question of how and when man first arrived in the Americas is far from settled, for the whole Western Hemisphere is covered with startling traces of an enormous and exceedingly varied prehistoric cultural development and civilization of high degree, whose mute remains pose an unanswered riddle for contemporary science and raise questions of vital importance for our time. Are some or all of these ruins traces of former great cycles of human achievement which have been called the Lemurian and Atlantean? Just how old are they in reality? Who were those first ‘Americans’ who built them and what was the character of their life and times? What is the karma which sees us constructing a far-flung modern civilization atop these ancient remains of a former apogee of achievement? Could it be that many of us are their very builders, having returned to the scene through the majestic cyclic process of rebirth? If so, what of use now can they tell us? . . . cont.

The Theosophy of Ancient America — I and II

There was an ancient American theosophy which taught conceptions of the universe and of man just as lofty, profound, and spiritual as any formulated by either Greeks or Hindus. And this god-wisdom was frequently expressed in terms and metaphors more graphic than are found in either of the latter. We are only at the beginning of a living understanding of the true esoteric perspective of the many Indian cultures that once overspread all of and still exist in parts of South, Central, and North America. The more we learn about them, the clearer it becomes that they all shared in a common religious tradition that was known and taught from one end of the New World to the other by the initiates of each center, in language and imagery adapted to local circumstances. Then all of these local versions, stripped of their elements of superstition and formalism, are seen to reflect major portions of that primary secret doctrine or esoteric tradition which is global in extent, and which has formed the heart of the human spiritual drama in prehistoric as well as all historic eras. . . . cont.

The Theosophy of Ancient America — III: One Foot in the Fifth World

Deeper than our desire for material trophies is the need to know who and what we are, how we relate to those around us and to the world we all occupy. So true is this that a person who cannot usefully satisfy himself about these questions is said to be alienated, dissociated from the mainstream of his own consciousness. The measure in which a culture is able to endow its members with an identity and a sense of social solidarity is one criterion by which we rank it in terms of worth and standing. Alienation or the reverse — psychological unity — results from whether the spiritual tradition prevailing within the culture has become bankrupt or is yet a living power. If the former, the necessity is an urgent one, because “not by bread alone” does man live and thrive. If he could, he would be something less than man. We require the bread of intellectual conviction to satisfy the mind’s questions and the intuitive bread of the heart to assuage the thirst for spiritual comprehension of ourselves and the universe.

Because their sacred traditions gave them reliable and satisfying descriptions of themselves, their antecedents, and the universe, American Indian peoples for long millennia have had a very precise notion of who they are, where they came from, and where they are in the evolutionary trek of the ages. . . . cont.

The Theosophy of Ancient America — IV: To Make Men Divine

Is it possible to understand the spiritual outlook and way of life of a people who, though intensely religious, “have no word for religion in their own language,” as Frank Waters has exclaimed in surprise of the Navaho? In truth his expression can apply to all the great native American cultures, for each centered thought and daily action in the vast mystery of spirit-matter. Equally with the Taoist of China who saw life as a Way, American Indians spoke of the Road or Way of Life and Death — a progression of consciousness. For them, the Road of Life embraced not merely the individual’s three score and ten years, but the complete process of mankind’s evolution. Because our manner of approaching truth is primarily through the mind, and not the ‘heart” or intuition as with the Indian, his vision of reality is often incomprehensible to us. . . . cont.

The Mayan Popol Vuh

Dennis Tedlock’s recent translation of the Quiche Mayan Popol Vuh is one of the finest, and as such is attracting widespread attention. It, together with his introduction, glossary, notes, and comments, offers insights into the treasury of knowledge these ancient peoples had regarding the beginnings, past, and future history of the cosmos and man, a knowledge which is validated by similarities in early Egyptian, Babylonian, Hindu, and Tibetan scriptures.

Thanks to Tedlock’s intuitive and scholarly exposition these similarities emerge from the seemingly ambiguous and grotesque characterizations with which Mayan and pre-Mayan sages encapsuled their cherished tradition. Later generations have unfortunately taken these characterizations literally and in so doing have perverted and degraded what was once part of “The Light That Came from Across the Sea,” as the Popol Vuh has been called — a title indicating that Mayans, like Christians and Buddhists, believe that spiritual knowledge can be obtained only by crossing over to the other shore, i.e., by reaching a higher awareness. The Popol Vuh is also called by the Quiches, whose descendants still live in the highlands of Guatemala, the “Council Book” and is referred to as a “seeing instrument.” They believe that by it one can come to know everything under the sky and on the earth to the very limits of space and time, as did the first humans before the gods confined their sight to what was obvious and nearby. . . . cont.

The Maya Creation Story

People of all times and places have sought to understand how the universe came into being and how humanity developed. Each culture provides its own account, unique in detail but embodying universal themes. This similarity of thought among remote civilizations may indicate a form of archetypal intelligence available to any human being with the spiritual capacity to access it, as well as the existence of a very ancient worldwide civilization. The Popol Vuh records one branch of the ancient Central American heritage. Written shortly after the Spanish conquest by a Quiche Indian in his native language but using the Roman alphabet, it was transcribed and translated into Spanish by a Dominican priest in Guatemala at the end of the 17th century. His manuscript, housed in the library of the University of San Carlos, Guatemala City, was brought to the attention of European scholars in 1854, making Maya cosmogony and history available outside Central America. Today researchers can also draw on other documents, inscriptions, and the traditions kept alive by the Maya’s descendants.

Considered from a theosophic perspective, the Maya story of creation reveals its kinship with the worldwide wisdom tradition. It begins with the emptiness of the primordial waters of space, in a darkness which contains no manifested thing. There Hunab Ku, the divine one, the first cause, eternal, unborn, undying, all that was, is, and will be, uncontained, boundless, absolute, awakened from the dreamless sleep of thirteen eternities and emanated out of his own will the Heart of Heaven. . . . cont.

Those Mysterious Maya?

The remains of Maya civilization were discovered during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by amateur archaeologists who came to Central America. Better prepared individuals in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries extended this pioneering work. Compared with today’s highly specialized professionals, these enjoyed an enviable atmosphere of scholarly freedom and they did not hesitate to address themselves to the larger question — still moot — what kind of people erected those magnificent stone edifices and why? This continues to fuel a surprisingly wide interest in all of the high cultures of pre-Columbian America despite the mainly technical reports now offered us by most specialists.

The human story of Maya explorations has been engagingly set out in two books by Robert L. Brunhouse, professor of history at the University of Alabama. In his first work, In Search of the Maya (University of New Mexico Press, 1973. Brunhouse’s 1975 sequel is published by the same press), he outlined in sympathetic terms the exploits, foibles and conjectures of eight of the first pioneers in the field. Pursuit of the Ancient Maya, just published, draws lively portraits of seven of their successors such as Alfred P. Maudslay, Sylvanus G. Morley, William E. Gates and Frans Blom, describing their successes and failures. Read serially, these interesting accounts yield a far better insight than does any one alone. . . . cont.

Aztec Calendar Stone

The most precious relic of Pre-Columbian culture in Mexico is the Aztec Calendar Stone. This immense object of basaltic porphyry measures thirteen feet in diameter and weighs twenty-four tons. It is a living link with Mexico’s fascinating past, a blend of Aztec science and mythology. The stone was carved shortly after the year 1502, and was unearthed about the middle part of the seventeenth century at the Zocalo or Central Plaza of Mexico City. Incidentally, the Zocalo marks the ancient capital of the loosely-knit Aztec “empire,” a place the Aztecs called Tenochtitlan (“cactus on a stone”). According to legend, the Aztec people were to found their capital when they came across an eagle perched on a branch of cactus, devouring a snake. The Aztecs later changed the name of their capital from Tenochtitlan to Mexico, in honor of their war god, Mexitli.

To the amazement of archaeologists, the stone, when deciphered, revealed a sophisticated knowledge of astronomy. Aztec astronomy, based chiefly on astrology, divided the solar year into 18 months of 20 days each with 5 intercalaries (days inserted into the calendar to make it correspond to the solar year). The days were named by consecutive hieroglyphics, and they could by means of the stone, calculate annual periods of 4, 13, 52, and 104 cycles. The Aztec priests used the stone calendar to regulate important festivals and sacrificial seasons. With the aid of the calendar, they could settle the hours of the day, the periods of equinoxes and solstices, and the zenith transit of the sun with precision. . . .  cont.

An Important Message from the Kogi Elders

The Elder Brothers by Alan Ereira, tucked among the new books on display, caught my eye. Its subtitle, “A lost South American people and their message about the fate of the earth,” clinched the matter. The dustjacket portrayed Indians of unknown genre, dressed in neat cotton garments and wearing conical hats, against a backdrop of mist-shrouded mountain slopes. Alan Ereira, historian and film director/producer, was chosen by the Kogi Indians of Colombia to bring their message to the world. This he was able to do with his TV film From the Heart of the World (British Broadcasting Corporation, London) and with his book The Elder Brothers.

Many of us were moved in the ’30s by James Hilton’s Lost Horizon with its Shangri-La, a city deep in the Himalayas ruled by a wise lama, where peace and harmony prevailed. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is no fiction. Its two peaks, nearly 19,000 feet high, seem to rise out of the sea in Colombia, and are home to the Kogi. They have lived in harmony with the Great Mother with great fidelity for Millennia, following an ancient wisdom which affirms all things are rooted in divinity. All things, they believe, exist in the mind of the Creator before they finally become manifest. Spirit permeates every thing. . . . cont.

Karma in the Oglala Indian Tradition

Karma, a Sanskrit word meaning “action,” is regarded as a law of absolute universal justice, in which effect is linked with cause. It covers all causality in the universe, but the emphasis is on ethical causality or responsibility. According to Eastern doctrines, no living being is excepted from karma, not even a god, though the karma of a god is on a different level from that of a man, who is often guided by personal desires and selfish motivations.

The Oglala Indians of South Dakota belong to those tribes who called themselves Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Fireplaces, now generally known as Sioux Indians. Much eternal wisdom is concealed under the surface of their myths. In summarizing their story on cosmogenesis, our emphasis will be on the concept of Skan, a divine being of great interest in relation to their ideas on ethical causality. Skan literally means “to do, to act, to move about”: the acting moving principle.

In the beginning was Inyan (the rock), beginningless, omnipresent, and omnipotent, soft and shapeless. His spirit was Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit or Great Incomprehensible. From a part of himself, Inyan made Maka (Earth), who in her spirit remained part of him. Inyan’s blood became the rivers, his powers became the sky — not the material sky, but the spirit of Skan, the source of energy. Although Skan was the third of the sacred beings, he was the highest, because Inyan and Maka were material, and the world of matter has no powers except those given by Skan. Maka demanded all kinds of things for herself, such as light and shadow, warmth and adornments. Skan heard her complaints and uttered the first decree: “Maka must remain as she was created, joined to Inyan as a part of the world, but she shall be able to see herself and control the waters.” Thus Skan was established as the final judge of all things. . . . cont.

Theosophy among the Hopi

Much about the origin and age of the original inhabitants of America remains unknown. Popularizers still propagate the view of the first Americans as semi-savage, prehistoric people traveling from Mongolia via the Bering Strait several thousand years ago to enter an empty continent. Evidence is building, however, that a great many peoples have long lived in what was already a densely populated continent at least as far back as 12,000 years ago — and, as a growing number of controversial findings suggest, many thousands of years before that. Moreover, as shown by the excavation of skulls, several different types of peoples lived in the Americas in ancient times — not only the ancestors of present-day Indians, but also those with different racial characteristics, such as the well-known Kennewick man. The Indians themselves consist of many different tribes, each with its own customs and language, and cannot be lumped together.

In the Southwestern United States hundreds of religious centers which breathe a holy atmosphere have been discovered in overhanging cliffs around the Four Corners area, where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet. These complexes often consist largely of kivas (circular underground stone buildings where ceremonies and initiations were held), round towers, storage buildings, and simple dwellings. No one knows exactly who built these centers or why they were abandoned around 1200 AD, though recent archeological evidence suggests a traumatic episode. The Hopi, who live on a rocky plateau in Arizona about 70 miles east of the Grand Canyon, say that they were built by their ancestors and were abandoned because the inhabitants abused their spiritual powers. . . . cont.

Wisdom Teachings of the Hopi

Much of the wisdom of the American Indians is written in symbols — a language without letters or sounds that speaks to that part of our natures which remembers. Unfortunately few of us are able to get in touch with these ideas that may have meant everything to us in past lives. It may help if we reflect upon the possible meaning of the prehistoric pictographs left throughout the Americas, many of which are in the form of circles, planes, crosses, swastikas, and symbolically shaped animals, humans, and gods.

In The Secret Doctrine, H. P. Blavatsky offers interpretations: the circle (egg or disc) represents infinite space; the universe before life began, slumbering, as it were, in a state of unconscious nonbeing; the Divine from which all issues forth and to which all returns. A dot within a circle suggests the germ of manifested life, whereupon the circle becomes a circumscribed area limited by human comprehension, or by the confines of its manifested activities — beyond which the unknowable extends “forever.” The dot extended into a line suggests duality: spirit and matter, heaven and earth, and the innumerable light and dark yang-yin qualities found throughout manifested existence. When the horizontal line is crossed by a vertical, human life is indicated. The circumference now may disappear, leaving the cross, symbol of the descent of spirit into matter, or of a divine being into earth life. In some cultures the cross symbolizes completion, that equilibrium of spiritual and material forces which occurs when a man or woman is enlightened.

Among the American Indians part of the circumference is left in place, forming a swastika — that ages-old emblem of the beginningless, endless motion of life; of cycling periods of time; and of spiraling cosmic forces. The Hindus refer to this ever-enduring rhythmic motion as the periodic outbreathing and inbreathing of Brahma: the awakening and sleeping of vast world systems. The Greeks speak of the Logos or Word which, being at once sound, vibration, and motion, awakens universal life.

Interestingly the accounts of Indian elders of northern Arizona, as told in Frank Waters’ Book of the Hopi [this retelling of the Hopi creation story is drawn from Frank Waters’ remarkable narrative on Hopi traditions first published in 1963], bear startling similarities to Greek and Roman, Asiatic, Persian, and other accounts of the destruction of successive world-continental systems alternately by fire and flood . . .  cont.

Holy Wind, Holy Spirit

We take for granted the miracle of breathing: that each breath we inhale invigorates and keeps operational our heart, mind, and entire constitution from the first moment of life until our demise. But how is this accomplished? By what elixir is life sustained? Obviously by more than oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide; more, too, than by microorganisms carried to us by the winds from near and far. Perhaps this life-giving elixir is part of that mystical Spirit or Breath of God that Christians refer to. After all, spirit comes from the Latin word spiro which means “to breathe.” Many ancient cultures regarded wind as one of the first and highest expressions of the divine Spirit.

Native Americans of the Southwest would agree, for to them wind is a Holy Spirit, as James Kale McNeley brings out in his book Holy Wind in Navajo Philosophy (The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 1988). But first he reminds us of the limitations of our language: that no English translation can express the philosophical depths of certain Navajo terms. Nilch’i, as an example, is translated in English as “air, wind, or atmosphere,” but to the Navajo it refers to Sacred Wind, Holy Spirit, even to the Supreme Creator that pervades the cosmos and

gives life, thought, speech, and the power of motion to all living things and serves as the means of communication between all elements of the living world. — p. 1

According to their tradition, Wind appeared in the first world as a cloud of light which “misted up” from the horizons of the four cardinal directions, each mist with its associated color and mountain, in which there was an inner form “just like a real breathing human.” . . . cont.

Monster Slayer’s Quest — The Navaho Way

Father, give me the light of your mind, / that my mind may be strong; / Give me some of your strength, / that my arm may be strong, / And give me your rays that corn and / other vegetation may grow. — Navaho prayer to the Sun

Many are the stories of man’s search for truth, each in its way deeply moving. The Navaho version is amazing. Uniquely Indian in character and landscape, even today it generates power to heal and protect those who participate in its dramatization. Combining sacred tradition with ritual and dry sand painting, their “search” takes the form of a ceremonial, originally lasting nine days and nine nights, called “Where the Two Came to Their Father”. Its observance was “discovered” accidentally in 1885 by James Stevenson who arrived unexpectedly at the reservation in Arizona just as the Navaho were about to begin a performance for the benefit of a member whose vision was failing due to an eye inflammation. Mr. Stevenson’s subsequent report to the United States Bureau of Ethnology revealed what a profound and complex event it was that he and the 1,200 Indians there assembled observed.

Another version of the legend was given to the American artist Maud Oakes during 1942-43 by Jeff King, a 75-year-old Navaho medicine man of New Mexico, who had learned the songs and ceremonies in childhood from the celebrated singer, Hosteen Hozone. “It took four years,” he said, “and I am still learning.” His sand paintings are based on his remembrances of pictures he had seen (or visioned?) long ago in a cave. Nowadays these symbolic pictures are “painted” according to prescribed patterns, with sprinklings from between thumb and forefinger of ingredients often procured with great difficulty. These include sand of various colors collected from the four Holy Mountains, pollen, ground flower petals, and cornmeal — that food of the gods and of earth people that is power and medicine combined.

While the context of the dramatization is suggestive of earth’s beginning and of primordial struggles between the opposing forces of the cosmos, its application is always to present-day conditions. It is conducted to protect warriors from danger — as during confrontations with Colonel Kit Carson’s troops during the Fort Sumner years of 1863-68, and later during the Vietnam war — and others from hunger, accident, and sickness of either the body or mind. Invariably those who participate in or who witness the rituals speak of an uplift, and of an almost tangible power aroused in their souls. . . . cont.

South Corner Time: Excavations and Sunrise Observations at Indian Racetrack

The Indian Racetrack is located on a mesa above the Animas River Valley of northwestern New Mexico. It is composed of four parabolic arcs of river cobbles, evenly spaced about three meters apart which extend for about 135 meters. I measured the feature from the northeast to the southeast ends of the arc. The concavity of the arc is on the east side. Two cairns of river cobbles, two meters apart, straddle the equinox bearing about 133 meters from the east center of the arcs. The Cairns are about one cobble course high and six meters in diameter. From the curvature of the arcs, which the early settlers thought gave the appearance of a modern running track, came the name Indian Racetrack.

The Animas River, a tributary of the San Juan River, tumbles down the mountain slopes and enters northwestern New Mexico, where it flows through the cities of Aztec and Farmington before joining the San Juan River on its journey to the Colorado River.

Prehistoric populations used to surround the Animas Valley. Chaco Canyon is south of the valley, and the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde lie to the northwest. There were also great settlements in the La Plata, Mancos, and McElmo drainages. Scattered along the lower Animas Valley were pueblos and villages which exemplify the apparently successful blending of cultural influences.

Probably the best known prehistoric pueblo in the Animas Valley is at Aztec Ruins National Monument. Viewed from the Indian Racetrack, the ancient pueblo lies to the northeast, across the Animas River. Two mesas of an equal elevation of 5,760 feet to the east of the Indian Racetrack were dwelling places for the Anasazi (Ancient Ones). There is also a ruined pueblo down in the valley on the Blancett homestead just north of the Indian Racetrack.

The kidney-shaped mesa on which the Indian Racetrack site lies is relatively flat, with sparse vegetation of grasses, sagebrush, and juniper trees. The total area is about 120 acres. No sherds or lithics have been found on the mesa.

From the mesa one can see almost all the major prehistoric sites in the valley. Perhaps, the main focal points of attention for the Anasazi who constructed the site would have been sunrise and sunset horizon points. . . .  cont.

House of the Great Kiva: Astronomical Observations

Standing in the altar room looking out through the east-facing door towards the dark mesas, I could tell that the sun was about to rise. On this summer solstice morning the sky was streaked with red and yellow clouds. A halo of light formed behind the mesas, and then an arc of brilliant, blinding light peaked over the mesa tops. As the world slowly turned, I watched the ancient sun-god rise above the House of the Great Kiva.

There are many ruins in northwestern New Mexico and the surrounding Four Comers region, perhaps none as spectacular and mysterious as the House of the Great Kiva located at Aztec Ruin National Monument near the city of Aztec, New Mexico. It was originally constructed about 1115 A.D. by the Chaco people, a branch of the Anasazi culture. An outgrowth of their cosmic religious tradition was the use of solstice diagonals and equinox bearings in the construction of various religious buildings. Earl Morris, the noted Southwestern archaeologist who excavated the Great Kiva in 1921, described it as the center of highest knowledge then known to the Chacoans.

The Pueblo Indians of Arizona and New Mexico are thought to be the descendants of the ancient Anasazi. Through the study of Pueblo Indian ethnology, researchers can sometimes gain insights into rites and rituals that the Anasazi might have engaged in. . . .  cont.

Autumn Equinox at the World Quarter Shrine

How the prehistoric Anasazi, the Ancient Ones, perceived the universe may not be so different from certain theosophic perspectives of the cosmos.

The Pueblo Indians of Arizona and New Mexico are thought to be the descendants of the Anasazi. Through the study of Pueblo Indian ethnology, the writings of H. P. Blavatsky, and the observations of Tons Brunes in his two-volume work, The Secrets of Ancient Geometry, we can sometimes gain insights into the ancient rituals in which the Anasazi might have engaged. . . . cont.

Children of the Rainbow

Before the beginning of the making-anew, only the Maker and Container of All, the All-father Father, had being. Nothing else whatsoever was, through the great spaces of ages. Then this Awonawilona conceived within itself, thinking outward into space. Mists and steams potent with growth-power evolved and appeared. So, by its innate knowledge the All-container became the central Sun; with the brightening of the spaces, the great mist-clouds thickened together and evolved into the great manifest waters of space.

Drawing out its own substance, the Sun-father formed the seedstuff of the fourfold containing Mother-earth and the All-covering Father-sky. Lying together, these two conceived all the men and creatures of the earth. Then Earth-mother repulsed Sky-father, separating far apart to make room for her brood, forming scum and foam which Sky-father hardened with his cold breath so that all their creatures should have living space. Doing his part, Sky-father spread forth his hand containing seven golden corn-grains into all the regions of the world-dawn, saying

When the Sun-father is not nigh, and thy terraces are as the dark itself, being all hidden therein, then shall our children be guided by lights — like to these lights of all the six regions turning around the midmost one — as in and around the midmost place, where these our children abide, lie all the other regions of space!

Thus according to the Zuni account Man and all his younger and older brothers came forth again into a new pilgrimage of manifestation along and through the worlds of being that had reappeared as the thought in the mind of Awonawilona, the All-container. It can stand broadly for the whole native American conception of our human kingdom: born of divinity, clothed in matter, at first misty but later physical. . . .  cont.

I, the Great Mystery

As long ago as 1898 Jeremiah Curtin, American linguist and ethnologist, noted in his Creation Myths of Primitive America (p. xi and passim) that Amerindian accounts of the birth and development of the cosmos and solar system form a complete story and give a detailed and circumstantial picture of the origin of this world and all the things and creatures it contains — including man. The manner in which the process was imaged varied from culture to culture; but a unity of perspective, forming what might be called a hemispheric “creation story,” can be discerned in all, even when we have only fragments of their world view. Where a more complete, detailed record has been preserved, as in the Quiche Mayan Popol Vuh of Central America or the Book of the Hopi from the southwestern United States, the sweep of spiritual vision is breathtaking, often arrestingly beautiful in conception, and fully comparable in terms of sophistication and complexity with any of the world’s other major epics of creation. . . .  cont.

Death and the Tree of Life

What is the native American’s view of death? Tribal traditions about the matter vary in expression but are not at variance one with another on fundamentals. The Tillamook of Oregon, for example, have an interesting account about one of their number who died. Because the people wanted him back, the tribe performed a sacred dance for five days, after which the “dead” one awakened, asked for food, and then told them what the after-death experience is. He said the soul of man after physical death travels “a long way.” A point is reached where those who have not lived rightly on earth take the “wrong trail,” while those whose lives were upright go forward along the true path of souls to paradise.

Statements from his tradition by a contemporary Chippewa medicine man, Sun Bear, extend the native perspective of death. Since life is movement, but movement that is cyclical and not linear, physical death is nothing more than a “change of both worlds and forms,” because it is “a circle, from birth to death to rebirth.” So native peoples’ acceptance of the fact of human rebirth or reincarnation on earth is pervasive and shapes their conception of death. As early as 1868 the well-known student of native American religions, Daniel Brinton, asserted it “was in fact one of their most deeply-rooted and wide-spread convictions . . . indissolubly connected with their highest theories of a future life, their burial ceremonies, and their modes of expression.” The teaching of reincarnation is one of the major distinguishing features of North American native religious life. Not only that, it is a belief that forms an important element in the world view of Andean peoples of South America, as it did among the Incas of that region during the Spanish conquest. . . . cont.

Continuous Journey to the Sun

“Man is made From Everything” is a beautiful Navaho saying that is pregnant with implications. It means that we human beings are compound of every ingredient composing the source of all, All-father Father: the cosmic being whose body is the cosmos that we see. We share in its divine, spiritual, mental, ethereal, and material being. Because All-father Father periodically emanates all things into existence and later brings about their withdrawal into itself, it likewise contains time and space. So the Indian knows that he too, as every other creature, is born and reborn, returning to this world in reincarnation. As early as 1868 the Americanist, Daniel G. Brinton, reported the central importance of the idea of human rebirth in American Indian religion, in his Myths of the Americas.

Far from being lord of creation, he knows that he is rather just one species of being linked with many younger brothers coming on behind him in evolution, and with older brothers who are ahead of his kind on the great journey. . . . cont.

American Indian Vision Quest

A central practice of the North American Indian is the Vision Quest: the inward journey toward the perception of our innermost self within the “Harmony of the Four Balances” [Hyemeyohsts Storm, Seven Arrows, p. 27]. This journey often begins in childhood and the search for the vision continues throughout life.

In Voices of Earth and Sky Vinson Brown described the rite of passage, saying that among the Plains tribes and also in most of the Plateau and Eastern forest tribes, practically every young man and many a young woman was sent to seek a vision. In effect their whole childhood was programmed to fill them with a desire to seek and receive visions, spirit power, and an understanding of the sacrifice and ordeal involved. Most of them expected to see in vision one or more guardian spirits, usually in the form of an animal, a bird, or as a natural force like thunder and lightning. This guardian spirit is a reflection of the Great Spirit in each seeker, and will remain with him all his life to help and protect him, especially if he keep his heart purified.

The American Indians hold sacred the virtues of truthfulness, courage, generosity, and reverence for life. They practice direct communication with the Great Spirit, whom they call Wakan Tanka, through seven sacred ceremonies. . . . cont.

Esotericism of the Popol Vuh

Esotericism of the Popul Vuh

By Raphael Girard

Translated from the Spanish with a Foreword by

Blair A. Moffett

Full Text Online

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